Prabal Gurung says have a career with great intentions – WWD

For outsiders, Prabal GurungHis career may sound like a quintessential American dream tale. But the designer opened up on Monday night about the great intentions that have come to fruition.

In a Q&A with Fern Mallis in 92Y, Gurung detailed his growing up in Nepal and his decision to move on to study fashion in India and later in New York City. An activist on and off the runway, Gurung has repeatedly emphasized the need to provide visibility to the unseen. “We all, in one way or another, know how other people feel. For me, as an immigrant, a person of exotic color, my existence and visibility is something I struggle with. [for] continuous. There are many people from minority groups who have fought for this and their struggle is even more so. And women, the fight they have to do every day. Their decision to do whatever they want to do is up to the grasp,” he said.

This designer appreciates early backers like Sarah Jessica Parker, Demi Moore and Oprah Winfrey. Gurung repeatedly referred to his mother, who raised him and his siblings after his parents’ divorce. Recalling his fun, playful and challenging childhood, he talks about being “frequently bullied” for being mean and for fighting the all-boys school he attended in Nepal. He said he often told his mother, “You see your worth. The world just needs to catch up with it.”

Gurung tells of one time being petrified when his mother unexpectedly walked in while he was putting on his make-up, only to say, “’That’s not the way to put on that lipstick. Let me fix it for you,” Gurung said and wiped away a few tears. (His mother currently lives in his apartment building and they have breakfast daily and dinner weekly.) Michelle Obama is also a supporter of his work and Gurung recalls his mother having been How emotional to meet her.

In Nepal, fashion design is seen as the pursuit of “boring housewives”, so Gurung studied fashion in India and interned for Manish Arora. When asked why so few South Asian fashion designers fail to take their brands global, Gurung said, “We sit here in the Western world and think that the only definition of success is to make it in America or in Europe. For many people, their home is enough. India is a big country and for a lot of them, that was enough… for the longest time, aesthetically through our colonial lens, what we thought of as luxury. is always one-way. When the world is opening and receiving [more] globally through social media and technology, we are exposed to the ideas of different cultures and aesthetics. I think it will start to change. ”

After a seven-year, tourist-filled holiday spurred by a move to Australia for his first love, Gurung’s return to Nepal, spurred by a couple of casual visits to Oprah Winfrey’s talk show, he filed application to Parsons and was accepted. After an internship at Donna Karan and a first job at Cynthia Rowley, he joined Bill Blass as a design assistant a year after the eponymous designer died in 2003. Describes the meticulous used by the company’s top European-trained tailors, Gurung says he saved a lot of old models (and Blass’ Rolodex) when the company went on sale a few years later. Not sure if the Blass archives still exist, Gurung said, “I wish I owned that company.”

The generosity of friends helped Gurung take the stage for his first presentation. Having been in business for over a decade, Gurung talks about how he has always believed in “matrilineal energy. Look at the world we live in now. At the hands of patriarchy, we are left with a climate crisis, an economic crisis, a human crisis, xenophobia, police brutality – the list goes on and on. Growing up, we were taught to celebrate ruthless ambition, money at any cost… any idea that challenged those notions was seen as maiden, weak… until now. The conversation we’re having or we should be having is about sustainability, vulnerability, accountability, visibility, inclusion, etc,” he said, noting that ” Feminine, female-led ideas and people are what will save us. This includes a Prabal Gurung woman, man, person or world. ”

After covering the career-changing WWD, Gurung also caught the attention of Moore, who tweeted about the designer as a person to watch, his thank-you tweet instantly attracting hundreds of followers. That made him realize the power of social media and “for the longest time” he handled it all by himself. “It changed my life,” Gurung said.

During the pandemic, this designer played a big role in the Stop Asian Hate movement. “If you’re black, your invisibility is real. When Asian hate attacks happened, a lot of people didn’t believe it in the first place. It hit the house very hard. They look like my grandparents, my mother, my sisters, my brothers. I thought, ‘What is [having] all this access and followers, if i can’t talk about it? ‘ The media didn’t cover it in the first place and we had to take the lead.”

Along with fellow designers such as Phillip Lim and Laura Kim, Gurung has spoken out publicly against what is happening. “The important thing is that we made it. Let’s face it, even in our industry, when those in power talk about diversity and inclusivity, we’re often completely ignored,” he said. “It has become our responsibility. Our ancestors came to America to make a living so they could give us privilege and access. Now that we have the privilege and access, we need to speak up as a sign of respect for them. That’s why we started speaking out, because if not us, who [would?]”

Gurung also spoke passionately about the foundation he started in Nepal to help the victims of the 2015 earthquake. The designer has also integrated feminism and holistic patriotism into the collections and chapters. show its runway and message. Overall, it is very important for the designer to take a stance on what he stands for, what he represents, what he does and the choices he makes must reflect the child. his people. “You have to understand that America has a ripple effect on what happens around the world. I have lived in different countries so I know that. I respect America highest,” he said. (In the end, Gurung gave up staging a New York Fashion Week show at Hudson Yards, led by developer Stephen Ross’ supporting Donald Trump’s 2019 re-election campaign with a fundraiser. )

After a potential investor questioned Gurung during a meeting about his plans to honor diverse people, who are never portrayed in American style, he said, “You don’t look human. America. How would you define America? ‘” Gurung said. “I said to him, ‘You mean to say I don’t look white. I want you to know this – I am a US citizen. I came as an immigrant with a dream. I have become a citizen. I started a business while unemployed. I make 90% of my clothes in America. I actively participate. I pay my taxes but that’s still not enough for you. ‘”

That led him to use his visibility and background to see what America looks like in “Who’s Going to Be American?” collect. “For me America is an idea, not a person, not a nation,” he said to applause.

More recently, Gurung teamed up with Lim, Kim, Ezra J. William and Tina Leung in the new digital comic series “House of Slay”. “House of Slay is for everyone. It’s a safe, enveloping space,” he said. “It is built on the idea that while we individually can make noise, collectively we can start a revolution. The first step to building a community of revolutionaries is to associate yourself with people with intentions, integrity and purpose, who believe that the world is a better place when it’s colorful. ” Prabal Gurung says have a career with great intentions – WWD


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