In between the mood board of his spring/summer 2019 collection and the mesmerizing architecture of Patan, stood PrabalGurung, on the stage of his talk event by Photo Kathmandu. Hundreds of people could clearly see the reflection of our rich culture and heritage in his collection, with fiery reds, lemon yellow, peridot green and all the joyful colors which complimented the Tibetan flags that fluttered beautifully on the ceilings of the runway. The homeland, Nepal is his muse, and every year, he returns to the country for the love of his roots.
“My roots and my identity is based in Nepal.” Gurung said. “I realized early on that if I am to stand out in the crowd, in a sea full of amazing designers, that my designs has to be distinctively my own. Inspiration, to me, comes from all sorts of things; places, movies, music, museums, I usually go along with my instinct. However, at the end of it, I do consciously or unconsciously, find that Nepalese vibe, the culture and values, reflecting in my work and I am very content about it.”
The New York based fashion designer, PrabalGurung believes that fashion is an art; it is a way of living. For as long as he can remember, Prabal has always been fiercely independent in mind and taste. Conforming to the norms isn’t his nature, and fashion has always played a part in the narrative. When his friends in school called him different, rather than getting demotivated, he chose to accept the fact that he is indeed different and dared to do something different accordingly. His family and like-minded friends plays a humongous role in his life as they are the ones who encouraged him to achieve his dream. He is especially grateful to the strong women of his life, his mother and his sister, who supported his ideas from day one, and had a hand in making the successful PrabalGurung, that he is now
PrabalGurung launched his first collection in the fall of 2009. He previously worked as a design director for Bill Blass, that went into deep recession. Gurung’s first collection was all self-funded and pulled through by his own network of friends.Gradually, celebrities like Zoe Saldana, and Demi Moore, started to wear his clothes and the success and fame came along. The same year, he applied for CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund and won runner-up and also, won the CFDA Swarovski Award, which made him work even harder for his next collections. ‘However, I am extremely aware of how privileged I am to occupy the space that is able to hold the attention of thousands of people. The only pressure that I have as a designer would be to make sure that my integrity and my intentions are very much alive with my vision and to be my authentic self. As, today, my work, my success is just not about me and is a representation of the entire country.
Fashion industry and fashion has taught Gurung, how unpredictable our lives are. He designs four collections a year, with 200 pieces each. The inspiration has to keep evolving and the success and failure of a collection is unpredictable and magical at the same time. Behind the 12 minutes that the audience sees on the runway, is the hard work of many for six whole months. Therefore, the runway can be considered as a life in a nutshell. “Life without dreams is not worth living. The art of fashion came from within me and made me understand the value of dreams and passion. The artistic world of my own mind is what made me dream and the dream saved me, at last.”, he says beaming. In design, repetition is reputation. There’s a fine line between being consistent and boring.You have to have an identity that is truly yours and at the same time, you need to be innovative.This is where the field of fashion designing differs from other creative fields as the designers have to be inventing yet, not alienating.
The ideal woman for PrabalGurung who firmly believes that the future is female, is one who is elegant and feminine, with a bite; one who has made an impact to the world and shines tall and confident. “ I love seeing women in full feminine glory and their confidence coming alive. As a designer, it is my main focus to highlight the personality of the woman I’m making clothes for.” He has till now, dressed the exciting names in the world such as Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, Jennifer Lawrence, Gigi Hadid, Zoe Saldana, Ashley Graham, Alia Bhatt, Priyanka Chopra, and many more. The most gratifying moment for Prabal is the little personal moments of appreciation of his work, that touches his soul and makes him feel that the path of celebrating women is indeed the right choice he made.
There is a unique mix of confidence and excitement that comes with success and fame, when you can feel at once destined for greatness and frankly stunned that you are getting anywhere at all. “I believed it would happen—I knew it was my life,” Prabal says, reflecting on his achievements. “But at the same time, I still have so many things to experience and to tell, so many obsessions and stories! It’s the beginning for me.” At this point in his career, Prabal conveys a sense of absolute clarity of life. He justifies that success is a testament and a test to the character. He emphasizes that it’s not there to just enjoy and it has provided him with direction of where his life needs to go next.
With success, Gurung came to a realization that he was able to pursue his dream and make a name, simply based on the access to education and supportive family. This success of his was then diverted to a cause that meant much more than him. Shikshya Foundation Nepal was established seven years ago by PrabalGurung with his siblings, PraveshGurung and KumudiniGurung Shrestha, and friends, Rati Shah, RupaliGolchha and Riva Thapa,with the emotion of providing education to girl child. The foundation first started with providing education for 12 girls, and now has grown to more than 300 girls. “The notion of the project is to provide education not just within the classroom, but outside the classroom and also giving major importance to arts education, which is often a secondary thought for majority of people in Nepal.” Arts is indeed a neglected idea; however, the foundation focuses on the idea that art is a way of living, restoring, retaining, celebrating the culture and the history that has given us the identity that we all have today.
On a serene night of Patan Durbar Square, PrabalGurung’s success story touched the lives of many and moreover, inspired people to dream and work their way up towards achieving it. Now, back in New York, he focuses on bringing his vision to life, while living as a beacon of hope, for everyone in search of their own place in the world.