Another season, another muse? It seems that Bibhu Mohapatra adds a new name—or two—to his pantheon of strong women with each collection. For fall, however, his interest in Nancy Cunard, the heiress, writer, political activist, and style maker who was famously photographed by Man Ray in 1926 wearing stacks of bangles, and who inspired a 2015 Mohapatra collection, was rekindled. The designer explained that he became acquainted with his muse by coming across her biography while taking the Cunard transatlantic line from New York to Southampton. The fall show opened and closed with a reading of Cunard’s “Wheels,” a poem, said the designer backstage, that “points towards what I want to be as a person.”
Mohapatra’s collection could have used a little more poetry. There were touches of it here and there, like a bow on the back of a dress or the soft fall of a pleated dress, but overall it trod familiar territory. You can always count on Mohapatra for plissé, embellishments, and a dramatic sleeve treatment (this season it was a cutout at the shoulder). The embroideries on tulle always delight: one such dress in lightest blue was an airy delight. Pairing a sheer black jeweled tunic with trousers was unexpected and looked modern. Two pantsuits, one for day in rich brown, and one for evening in a metallic tweed, continued that thought.
Now that the designer is also a retailer, having opened his own boutique, separates are becoming a more important part of his offering. A midi skirt with beadwork was a nice idea, but might have been better in a woven than the unwieldy vegan leather that was a mainstay of this line-up. Also retail-related was Mohapatra’s collaboration with a women-led scarf brand, Janavi India. The designer, who looked dashing when taking his bow in one of their fringed neck pieces, indicated that there might be an in-store activation with the brand. As lovely as they were, however, the scarves were overused in the styling of the show, obscuring the garments.