It's been clear from the moment he launched his brand four seasons ago that Bibhu Mohapatra is a designer with talent to burn. He's a whiz with materials and finishings, fluent in the language of construction, and ideas burst from his collections like sparks. The question with this designer, though, has been about the use to which he's putting all that talent. Mohapatra's collections have sometimes seemed recherché in their narrow focus on gowns and cocktail frocks, and more than that, he has struggled to define a distinctive look and point of view.
This season went a long way toward remedying that. Mohapatra showed some excellent outerwear and clothes for day, for one thing. For another, with this collection he seems to be zeroing in on the Bibhu Mohapatra je ne sais quoi. Perhaps the best way to describe what the designer discovered this season would be to call it his wild streak. A single garment encapsulates it: a tailored wool jacket with an off-center zip, plumes of goat hair on the sleeve, and a touch of the wool-and-chiffon stripe Mohapatra made repeated use of here. The jacket felt modern—ladylike yet un-prissy—and that goat hair gave it an aspect of abandon. There were other clothes that struck the same balance, but none with such clarity.
The collection's strengths, in general, were its materials and its use of texture and dimension. Mohapatra had several interesting ideas—some good, period, and some good but wanting for execution. The just-plain-good ones were leathers stamped to look as though they were studded, the wool/chiffon stripe, fabrics folded origami-style to create a relief, and a metallic denim (!) used in the evening looks. The primary good-but-wanting idea was a "tattoo" embroidery—lacquered beading in a fleur-de-lis motif that came off a touch gaudy. Ironically, perhaps, the weakness of the collection was Mohapatra's eveningwear; there was too much of it, and too many of the dresses looked over-considered. Maybe Mohapatra didn't have his heart in evening this season, and maybe that's a good thing. He's branching out.