from wwd.com Launching a luxury collection in these times may cause one to wince: Can retailers be enchanted enough to buck the budget and, if not, can the designer tough it out? In the case of Bibhu Mohapatra, one can only hope. The 35-year-old Indian designer is no rookie. While a student at F.I.T., he worked at Halston and, after graduating, joined J.Mendel, where he polished his skills for eight years; the last five as the house’s design director. Mohapatra fits into the cult of luxury designers, favoring dressed-up styles that are at once ladylike and edgy with remarkable attention to construction and detail. “I find that women are best in looks that bring out both their natural beauty and inner self. It is intriguing to me to see that each one has an individual style and my goal is to contribute to and enhance that.” In a collection of 20 looks, wholesaling from $280 to $9,000 for a mink coat, Mohapatra includes a smattering of separates along with coats, dresses and gowns, which, while cerebral in concept, have a romantic flair. Inspired by Frank Gehry’s floating effects and 18th-century Japanese warriors, the designer layers shapes to “protect and flatter,” not just decorate. A slender broadtail coat, for instance, has a cashmere draped back panel; an exquisitely pleated silk dress is anchored with drawstrings and stainless steel straps. And spare but no less beautiful are the Iris mink contoured coat and drapey short gray silk mousseline cocktail dress. Mohapatra faces a big challenge at the moment, but his sure hand positions him well.