Bibhu Mohapatra Fall 2019: Beauty is the elixir for an embittered world

Consider the radical oblivion it must take to be a luxury ready-to-wear designer these days. While incomes, aspirations, living standards, even the very earth underfoot decay, the designer’s eye remains fixed on the flickering North Star of the one percent. Surveying a New York Fashion Week crowd barely in love with itself, slumped in its parkas and spackled in cynical highlighter, the designer must repeat, loudly, like a mantra, until it manages to convince: Beauty is the elixir for an embittered world.

Mid-winter of discontent, the paparazzi has thinned. The footwear has flattened. The fur has fauxed. Along the catwalk, only Hamish Bowles and a vaguely familiar Real Housewife appear to have brought their front-row game.

And yet Bibhu Mohapatra, the Michelle Obama favorite known for sumptuous fabrics and eveningwear as daywear, leans into opulence for his Fall/Winter 2019 tenth anniversary collection. Ostensibly inspired by the gardens of Northern Ireland’s Mount Stewart, the effect, in this moment of doom and disillusion, is more like a delegation from House Stark arriving for high tea at the Hermitage.

Models glide down the catwalk like a walking display of petit fours in shades of chartreuse, blush, gold, emerald and fuchsia. The silks are drinkable; the beadwork recalls a pollution-free sky from a bygone era. Mohapatra eulogizes the planet’s dwindling biodiversity with a skin parade of the future extinct – mink, fox, sable, chinchilla, alligator, cockatoo. Pretty soon, these clothes may be all that’s left to remember them by.

The attention to finish and flourish is endearing, almost transgressive. Bodices are shaped and pleated to gorgeous effect. Dresses are puffed and flared, skirts caged to swing, hemlines asymmetrical. In keeping with current trend, sleeves are exaggerated and ornate.

Just as you start to wonder which alternative headlines Mohapatra has been reading, you notice the hats. Those hats! Delicate, vintage-style fascinators, they first bring to mind broad leaves from some exotic garden. Then you note the tilted angle at which they sit on the head, and it hits you:

Of course. They’re there to catch runoff from the polar icecaps.

Ah, Bibhu. You’re with us after all.


Photos: Bibhu Mohapatra Fall/Winter 2019 – New York Fashion Week
all photos ©