Name You Need To Know: Fashion Designer Bibhu Mohapatra-Forbes



Name You Need To Know: Fashion Designer Bibhu Mohapatra

New York City has experienced a bit of a fashion renaissance lately. Among the brightest stars: Michelle Obama favorites Prabal Gurung, Sophie Theallet and Jason Wu; industry darlings Alexa Adams and Flora Gill of the label Ohne Titel and Joseph Altuzarra; and Max Osterweis of Suno, who creates dresses out of his collection of Kenyan textiles. Another newcomer is poised to join their ranks, in a very different design niche. His name: Bibhu Mohapatra. His specialty: ball gowns.
Ball gowns? In this economy? No one is more surprised by this than Mohapatra himself, a handsome, exceedingly polite 37-year-old who was born in India and, before starting his own label in 2009, spent eight years as creative director of J. Mendel–a house known for its luxurious furs and, yes, Red Carpet-worthy dresses. “The first two collections, I kind of held back a little bit with the evening pieces,” he says. “But a lot of the stores expressed, ‘You know we really think you could give us more gowns.’ So this past season I had, like, 10 gowns–and as a result we actually picked up a lot more accounts.”
Mohapatra’s had a good year: luxury department store Bergdorf Goodman picked up his Fall 2010 collection (his third under his own name), and Neiman Marcus will carry his Spring 2011 line, which debuted at New York Fashion Week in September and included smart linen separates as well as plenty of gorgeous dresses in saturated greens and blues featuring hand-pleated bodices, laser-cutting and overlapping layers of tulle (all Mohapatra signatures). The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) selected him to participate in its Fashion Incubator program, an initiative to help 12 emerging designers based in New York grow their labels by providing them studio space in the heart of the garment district and business mentorships. And Hollywood has begun to notice his designs: Elisabeth Moss (of TV series Mad Men) wore one of his ethereal chiffon and lace dresses to the Emmys, and Hillary Swank arrived at a taping of The Late Show with David Letterman sporting a translucent silk trench from his latest collection.
“There’s a sense of refinement in Bibhu’s work,” says Lisa Smilor, associate executive director at the CFDA. “It’s modern and mature. He’s really a new voice on the scene.”
What makes Mohapatra’s dresses so special? For one, he has a great sense of color: cinnamon, deep emerald, cerulean, gold–colors, the designer says, inspired by his native India. For two, his creations are often have an element of surprise: He’ll trim an aqua silk column with gold titanium or make a coat out of woven peacock feathers. (The lavish embroidery and beading on his dresses are done in India.) “His dresses are not typical; they’re not for the girly type,” says Elizabeth Hui, a buyer at Bergdorf Goodman. “His gowns are more appealing to someone more fashion-forward, who wants something different.”
Moreover, Hui says his gowns sell. “We carried this orchid gown that sold immediately. … There was another gown, in green velvet–it had no structure, no shape, an amazing color, just beautiful–that also sold right away.” Mohapatra says he has about doubled his sales every season.
Mohapatra says he will continue producing some day wear and coats, but his focus will remain special-occasion dressing. It’s a weirdly smart strategy: His peers have assiduously steered clear of evening wear, focusing on good ol’ American sportswear, chic cocktail dresses or, in the case of Altazurra and Ohne Titel, more avant garde designs. Of course, there is Marchesa–a label of exquisitely wrought dresses designed by Keren Craig and Georgina Chapman, wife of Miramax honcho Harvey Weinstein–which is a favorite of Hollywood starlets. But Mohapatra’s dresses, which range from $2200 for a cocktail dress to $15,000 for the priciest gown, are more accessible than Marchesa’s, otherwise fill a void for young women who are looking for a special dress but want something edgier than Oscar de la Renta or J. Mendel. “I could see him in 10 years becoming one of the preeminent evening wear designers,” says Smilor. “I could see him becoming an international brand; bridal wear seems like a natural spin-off down the road.”
But for now, Mohapatra is taking one step at a time. He’s working on his Fall 2012 collection–”It’s sort of a secret, but it will have an urban baroque feeling,” he says–and he’s looking to expand to India. But he’s mainly listening to feedback from buyers and mentors, and continuing to make very beautiful dresses. “I have to be true to how I am being perceived at this moment, and what my business needs,” says Mohapatra. “I am all about really getting this off-ground. Because we can make beautiful things here but if it doesn’t really sell at the end there’s no point. … These products, I would love for them to have a life that’s more than a season. They need to live longer, so that’s my goal.”


Bibhu Mohapatra Gown shines on Mad Men Star, Elizabeth Moss at Emmy's

"Mad Men" star Elisabeth Moss stepped out to the 38th International Emmy Awards in N.Y.C. on Monday night and she looked amazing. We had to hold ourselves back from adding 25 exclamation points to the end of that first sentence.
From her Bibhu Mohapatra, floor-length, peach gown to her hair (extensions? who cares!) to her scarlet nail polish, there was no trace of Peggy Olson in sight. Honestly, we can't take it. We're about to print out a million copies of this picture and post them all over our office with the words "STYLE DO!" written in Sharpie at the bottom of each."
-Huffington Post


Melissa George in Bibhu Mohapatra attends the 2010 One Frickin Day charity event at Christie's in New York City.

Melissa George In Bibhu Mohapatra
Spring 2011 cocktail dress at the 
One Frickin Day's Charity Buzz kick-off event

"I had a few moments with Bibhu Mohapatra. A J. Mendel dress crafted under his direction, and worn by Heidi Klum to the 2006 CFDA Awards, is up for bid." - Alex Geana


Interview with Bibhu On Avs TV during his spring 2011 show


"Making It' at New York Fashion Week" -Huffington Post

CLOSETTOUR Webisode 3: Making It from Jenni Avins on Vimeo.

Finding the WONDER in wondering what to wear
"As always at New York Fashion Week, there's been a lot of talk about our city's role in the industry -- now changing as quickly as you can say "fast fashion." The consensus seems to be that while Paris may be forever more refined, New York is the place for young designers to get their start.
"It's just very entrepreneurial," said Julie Gilhart, Barneys Fashion Director, "and that's what's so great about New York, is you too can be that."

Jenni talks with Julie Gilhart, Bibhu Mohapatra, and Ari Magallanes about the garment industry in New York


Bibhu Mohapatra: Playful Elegance with a Retro Spin-NBCNewYork

Thread NY

Bibhu Mohapatra: Playful Elegance with a Retro Spin

Bibhu Mohapatra: Playful Elegance with a Retro Spin
Catherine Blair Pfander
Bibhu Mohapatra, who claims he got his start in fashion sewing clothes for his sister inIndia, has that rare talent of designing clothes that women don't just appreciate, but really, desperately want to wear. Less concerned with obscure design references and high concepts than with timeless beauty and immaculate detailing, Bibhu's clothes are reliably gorgeous, yet relevant to a modern woman. If the line wrapping around Lincoln Center was any indication, Bibhu has truly found his fanbase this season.
For Spring 2011, Bibhu put a swingin' 60's spin on classic dresses and separates by adding giant, white-rimmed sunglasses and colorful mod newsboy caps. But there was something charmingly retro about some of the garments themselves: an amethyst satin cocktail dress featured large, bubble-like inlays,  and a smock-like trench in crisp white could have been swiped from a Jackie O exhibit at the Kennedy Center. Likewise, a balloon-sleeve minidress in silk chiffon looked like it was imagined with Twiggy in mind.
The inky watercolor print featured on some of the evening gowns and cocktail dresses felt feminine but still fresh, and with crisp origami folds wrap-around leather belts, would be perfectly suited to a chic work setting. 



Nine Designers to Watch This Fashion Week -


Bibhu Mohapatra 2011 Spring Collection, The Box, Lincoln Center,

Bibhu Mohapatra

"I can't wait to see the Bibhu 2011 Spring Collection
September 14, 2010
Lincoln Center"


Meet my Model for Fashion's Night Out @Bergdorfs

Meet the famous Gnoccomy cross dressing model for

Fashion's Night Out 

On 4th Floor at Bergdorf Goodman

September 10, 2010

Come to Bergdorf Goodman's 4th floor 
and see the gown I am creating for the handsome Gnocco
Hope to see you there


Bibhu Mohapatra at CFDA Fashion Incubator on Designer Social TV

We took a moment with designer Bibhu Mohapatra, and got to check out his new workspace and showroom at the CFDA Fashion Incubator, ogle his Fall 2010 Collection, and fall in love with a beyond beautiful wedding dress from Spring 2010.

Hillary Swank in Bibhu Mohapatra

Hillary Swank in Bibhu Mohapatra
on way to Late show in New York


in the studio

Bibhu Mohapatra fall 2009 Presentation