Fashion / Style

Fashion’s Most Cerebral Designer Puts a Modern Spin on Traditional Indian Dressing — Bibhu Mohapatra Gets Bold

Being Book Smart With Fashion

BY // 03.05.20

NEW YORK — A cerebral designer, Bibhu Mohapatra often bases his collections on books that have inspired him. For fall ’20, he looked to his native India and the classic 1950 Punjabi novel, Pinjar, by poet and novelist Amrita Pritam, as a focal point to explore “the strength and the resilience of the modern Indian woman” since the country’s independence 72 years ago.

The collection, which Mohapatra unveiled at New York Fashion Week, puts a contemporary spin on some traditional Indian ways of dressing, melding modern silhouettes with time-honored techniques of intricate embroidery, feathers and sequined embellishments.

He opened with a fresh take on the banjara dress, featuring an accordion pleated skirt with layers of black, beige and ivory, and ended with a series of gorgeous gowns incorporating traditional Indian embroidery in tree of life or cloud patterns.

He also experiments with the bold colors of his homeland, featuring bright Jaipur pink gowns heavily embellished with silver embroidery and a stark high-necked long-sleeved gown in an eye-popping shade of sindoor, based on the traditional vermilion red or orange-red colored cosmetic powder.

The references are subtle and not overpowering. Harmen-like Dhoti pants in crepe or lacquered velvet are paired with a stylish alligator jacket trimmed in sable or a long cashmere coat and parrot green turtleneck. And a sari gown in Gota embroidery is modernized with a black waistband and train along the front and back.

Mohapatra also has fun in combining a long elephant-print Angarakhi tunic with red crepe cigarette pants and attaching angel-like wings to a luxe green cocktail dress in a henna-striped pattern.

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Many of the looks are accessorized with colorful oversized feather pieces, which Mohapatra created with close friend and luxury jewelry designer Ranjana Khan.

He also collaborated with Narayan Jewellers to create a line of statement jewelry crafted with responsibly sourced Forevermark diamonds, set in 18-karat white and rose gold. The Empress Collection includes ear climbers, ear jackets, chandelier earrings, asymmetrical earrings, stackable rings and cocktail handcuffs.

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