The character Vanda from the David Ives’ play “Venus in Fur” was inspiration for Bibhu Mohapatra’s fall 2017 collection. In the play, Vanda, an actress, gains dominance of the director of the play she is starring in. Though she seemed wrong in the part initially, after much introspection and rehearsal not only triumphs in the role, she also triumphs over her critics and the play’s director.
“The play was written in a time where there was vast inequality between men and women. I am celebrating the power of women and their individuality, and a woman’s power of not being defined by men,” explains Bibhu Mohapatra. “This collection is also dedicated to all the women who have shaped me in my life. These women come from all parts of the world in different shapes and sizes. Each look in the collection represents all the women who have had an influence on my life.”
This very empowered woman is a central character in many of Bibhu Mohapatra’s collections. For over a decade Mohapatra has created collections that appeal to self-assured women, and in this outing Mohapatra reflects that empowered woman, even reaching back to India and the powerful women who fought side by side with Indian men for India’s independence from the British Empire.
This very empowered woman is reflected in own choice of style and taste. Mohapatra’s woman is not dressing for a man, but is dressing for herself. Based on that premise there are very few form-fitting silhouettes in this collection. Still, the Mohapatra women is sensual and eye-catching, (Remember, nothing is sexier than self confidence.)
This season Mohapatra chose to take the length of his skirts and cocktail dresses, for the most part, right below the knee. Shoulders are very defined with restrained volume and padding, and the silhouettes, though essentially feminine, denote power and authority. And Mohapatra’s one-shoulder reveal in several of the looks is absolutely ingenious and divine, revealing just enough to keep onlookers intrigued.
The surge of Indian nationalism at that historic moment is reflected in the color palette in this collection. “The colors of green and burnt orang which is used in this collection have a huge meaning for me. Orange, green and white were the colors of the India flag when India got its independence from Great Britain. I remember as a kid going on the August 15 Independence Day March, so those colors really spoke to me,” detailed Mohapatra.
Believing that fashion is a microcosm of everyday life, Mohapatra in this collection is creating garments that go beyond fantasy, giving a nod to how the elegant, assured woman lives and wants to dress. “Artists have always been known to be on the cutting edge of a revolution with their artistry and craft. Sometimes, they get reprimanded for their artistic rebellion; however, artists always raise their voices. That is what I am trying to do with my fashion art. Many are taking to the streets in revolt and I am doing the same thing through my craft.”
Standout looks in the collection, and there are many, include the brand’s mosaic jacquard top with peak sleeves under asymmetrical satin and silk velvet dress, mosaic jacquard and crepe dress with exposed shoulders, smoke pink gold flake embroidery top with mosaic pleated skirt and black mink, and pale gold cosmic embroidered ivory tulle gown.
—William S. Gooch