Bibhu Mohapatra is a good student. Each season, he proves that he's learned from the one before. Mohapatra isn't one of New York's young prodigy designers, but incremental improvements may yet push him into the front rank of the city's emerging-talent pool.
This time around, the improvement was most noticeable in Mohapatra's daywear, a category he increasingly emphasizes. There were some really smart looks in this collection, like a circle-seamed coat, a pencil dress with cutout shoulders, and tailored, wide-leg trousers all in a ribbed cotton that read like a sturdy point d'esprit; Mohapatra developed the material himself. There were also well-executed short tuxedo jackets and cool, Grecian-pleated harem pants that would work for day or evening. The Grecian pleats worked their way into the evening looks as well, but Mohapatra was judicious in their use. For instance, one of his best gowns featured a fan of pleats across one side of its skirt, while the bodice was scribbled with heavy-duty embroidery. The gown was weird yet compelling.
Mohapatra explained at the presentation that he took his inspiration this season from Helmut Newton. Consequently, skin was a big element, witnessed not only in slits and cutouts but in Mohapatra's focus on sheers and nude-toned fabrics. Crisscross bandage detailing winked at Newton's S&M fetish, while a chain-link print riffed on the photographer's celebration of steely female strength. The chain print seemed a bit off applied to Mohapatra's decorous cocktail dresses; where the theme worked was in a fluttery pale dress with tone-on-tone chain-link embroidery. Mohapatra found a better expression of edginess in his laser-cut bonded silks: A fitted black cocktail dress in nude chiffon, with laser-cut black squares all over it, came off elegant but tough. That's a look to learn from.