Bibhu Mohapatra, The Transparent Man
JANUARY 26, 2012 11:00 AM
story by Seth Friedermann
photos by Adrianna Favero
stylist Aminah Haddad
styling assistance by Ashley Roberts
hair and makeup by Angel Yu
model is Arianne from RED Model Management
New York-based designer Bibhu Mohapatra’s creations are complete visual sentences. They clearly communicate an idea which always feels fully realized. His designs possess the rare quality of transparency in process. It is as if the individual history of each piece is on display within the garment. You can see the idea behind the piece that fascinated Mr. Mohapatra in the first place, whether it was a technique an iconic image or a fabric treatment his work is bravely exposed. This clarity of vision may be a by product of necessity as his road to becoming a fashion designer was neither direct nor easy.
“Where I came from in Orissa (now called Odisha, India), there were no fashion schools. We had a great tradition of textiles of fabrics but not design.”
He made it to the United States via a scholarship in economics from Utah State University, but while he was there his experience in a few art classes led the faculty to tell him to apply at FIT. Following school, Bibhu Mohapatra built his reputation at J. Mendel, where he transformed and reinvigorated the label by using previously unseen combinations of materials and textures. Since launching his own line there has been rapid and profound growth in his collections. His designs have become increasingly refined and subtle, yet they have not lost the power to captivate. Mr. Mohapatra has remained a fierce explorer of his own deep imagination.
Much like his individual pieces, his seasonal collections also bare the stamp of thoroughness. The most illuminating thing I learned during my time visiting with him at the C.F.D.A Incubator was his concept of the life cycle of clothes.
“I can make a great dress. It can be praised and photographed and everyone can love it, but it is not complete until a woman buys it and wears it.”
The intensity and articulate way in which he stated those words reveals the passion and drive behind Bibhu Mohapatra. His designs, his collections, his brand, all matter a great deal to him. He is a smiling, warm, and likable man, but he has the spine of steel and the fire in his eyes that all great artists possess. His most recent collection had more length and less visible complexity than his past efforts but when you looked closer the technique, the imagination, and the degree of difficulty were clearly visible. To see the clothes is to see the artist, and to know the artist is to understand the clothes.