NEW YORK FASHION WEEK
All Eyes on Four Not-So-New Designers
From left: Chang W. Lee/The New York Times; Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images; Soul Brother/FilmMagic; Hiroko Masuike for The New York Times.
By DAVID COLMAN
Published: February 9, 2011
IT’S fitting that the movie that fashion people are mad for is “Black Swan.” It’s about a bulimic girl obsessed with perfection, poise and control who is really — really! — dying for her breakout moment atLincoln Center so the world can see how talented she is. Of course, the film is set next door at a fictional ballet company, and the girl is trying to break out of the corps, not the fashion pack. But every year, as the fashion flock gets larger, it’s harder to spot the cob or pen — boy swan or girl swan, of course — that could rise above the rest, on track to a spotlight in Vogue, a C.F.D.A. nomination and an order from Bergdorf Goodman.
What makes this season special, though, is that, unlike past years when fashion’s searchlights were focused on a crop of 23-year-olds just out Parsons (and 12-year-olds were declaring themselves designers), four of the most anticipated collections are by designers who each have more than a decade of experience and come to their new lines with a track record of making great, desirable clothes.
It sounds charmingly anachronistic in 2011 to hear why Bibhu Mohapatra, 37, already has a following among actresses and socialites — that is, because of his flair for cocktail dresses and evening gowns. It seems that today’s updates of ’30s gals like Claudette Colbert, Carole Lombard and the screwball heiresses they played are happy to stimulate the economy if there’s a flattering frock in it for them. Then again, after winning an evening-wear prize while at the Fashion Institute of Technology, then spending a decade designing for Halston and J. Mendel, Mr. Mohapatra does know what he’s doing. His clothes, fun and feminine without being fussy or retro, walk a line between youthful spirit and ladylike poise. Moreover, his long-practiced flair with embroidery, beading and lace, a skill that eludes most young designers, gives his clothes a specialness that endears them to customers. The question going forward: Can he make up for a perceived weakness in day clothes, or should he even bother? His presentation is on Feb. 15.