The New Guard
IN THIS MOST INAUSPICIOUS OF ECONOMIC MOMENTS, IT TAKES MAJOR GUTS TO LAUNCH A FASHION COLLECTION.
MEET A CROP OF FRESHMAN HOPEFULS WHO HAVE THE CREATIVE CHOPS—AND BUSINESS SAVVY—TO PULL IT OFF.
By Bridget Foley
Photographs by Flora Hanitijo
Styled by Carolyn Tate Angel
"BIBHU MOHAPATRA Probably more than most aspiring designers, Bibhu Mohapatra knows what he’s getting into. Prior to launching his own collection, he spent nine years at J. Mendel, eventually rising to design director. He also worked at Halston while a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology and has followed that house’s struggle to reclaim its identity and clout.
Mohapatra comes across as a deep-thoughts kind of guy. “Women are best,” he says, “in looks that bring out both their natural beauty and inner self.” And if his fall inspirations sound imposing—Frank Gehry and 18th-century Japanese warriors—he translated them into dressed-up clothes that are lavishly embellished yet manageable, stylewise, albeit with tony price tags (up to $17,000 for a mink coat). For fall, his first season, he picked up only two retail accounts, Dighton Rhode in Greenwich, Connecticut, and Adresse in Philadelphia. “Everyone is excited, but they don’t have the budgets,” Mohapatra says, noting that “some major target venues came and saw it more than twice. One has to do the groundwork. I’m paying my dues. It’s been superexciting, but it’s a little tough.”"