Q+A with Prabal Gurung
An exclusive VM interview with the fashion designer who delivers elegance with bite.
October 15, 2015
No stranger to having the world’s most glamorous women wear his designs (Duchess of Cambridge, Michelle Obama and Jennifer Lawrence), Nepalese/American designer Prabal Gurung’s Adirondack-inspired Fall/Winter 2015 collection promises more big-name devotees. But Gurung arrives in town today, which means Vancouver’s glamorous can get in line themselves. In honour of the fashion designer, Nordstrom will host a cocktail reception tonight (6pm-8pm) where anyone and everyone can meet Mr. Gurung, then eat, drink, and be merry all while taking in a sneak peek of his Resort and Spring 2016 collection. Vancouver magazine had a chance to ask the designer a few questions today; here are a few primers before the event tonight.
VM: You have a variety of interesting and eclectic background studies (hotel management/applied nutrition), At what point did your dreams segue into fashion design?
PG: To be honest, I had always wanted to be in fashion. I was sketching since I was a young boy at a British Catholic school in Nepal. Unfortunately at that point, designing was not looked upon as a career in Nepal but rather a hobby. I wanted to gain as much experience as possible but I always knew my passions would take me back to designing. It was only a matter of time.
VM: You have a global resume! Did growing up with Nepal’s treasure trove of gorgeous architecture, history, geography and vibrant colour contribute to your fashion sense? Conversely, was it leaving home and traveling the world that encouraged and fostered it?
PG: Nepal has absolutely had such an impact on me – personally and professionally. There will always be a nod to what I grew up surrounded by in each of my collections. It is inevitably a part of who I am. Of course when you live thousands of miles from home, you will always appreciate returning and go back with a fresh and different perspective. I feel like I find something new each time I visit.
VM: Your brand quietly supports the Shikshya Foundation Nepal. You also opened your show with Buddhist monks in thanks to the fashion industry. Do you feel fashion can play a role in shaping world views or is it simply that you’re now in a position to help those who need it and you have the means to make a difference (and fashion is the vehicle by which you can do this)? Either way, you’ve shed light on an important issue.
PG: The fashion industry has given me a platform that allows me to bring attention to where attention is needed. I have been able to raise awareness and make a difference in helping people remember what happened only months ago in Nepal. As I’ve said before, one tragic occurrence happens and the world quickly moves on. The industry has helped me shape, build on and continue the conversation around the earthquake. It is an international industry with many global players that has the ability to make change in fashion and beyond. It’s quite powerful.
VM: Some feel fashion can be divisive (between the haves/have nots; environmental impact of fast fashion; etc.); others feel it’s the great democratizer and a symbol of individual expression for those who wear it. Do any of these questions enter your creative process or are politics stripped away and you just create/imagine/design from a place free of dialogue? (We’re trying to get inside your head; there’s no right or wrong here!)
PG: When I’m designing I tend to really dive deeply into what is inspiring me for the collection at hand. While happenings in my life and throughout the world will undoubtedly have some kind of effect on me, I try to keep my message consistent and in line with the vision of the brand. If I were to let everything around me impact my designs, I would lose my voice and my vision.
VM: What three words describe your signature ethos? (Okay, you can cheat—if you need more adjectives, we’re all for it!)
PG: Timeless luxury with graphic appeal.
Elegance with a bite.
VM: What words describe the kind of woman who would want to wear them? (And do they all need great biceps like Michelle Obama?!)
PG: The woman I design for exudes sophisticated intelligence and is resolute in her goals. She is profoundly progressive, fearless, bold and strong. She is a thinking man’s sex symbol.
VM: Which designers inspire you?
PG: I have always been inspired by Mr. Saint Laurent. He was able to perfectly balance feminine draping with precise tailoring. I’m truly inspired though by designers across all kinds of mediums – art, architecture, everything really.
VM: Have you been to Vancouver before? If so, what’s your fave thing about this city? If not, what’s the first thing that struck you about this place?
PG: This is my first time in Vancouver. I appreciate the beauty of the city and warmth of the people. The backdrop of the mountains against the city scape is breathtaking. I will definitely be returning!