Prabal Gurung Shares his “American Dream” at NYFW

Celebrating his 10th anniversary this season, Prabal Gurung put forth an essential and timely question: ‘Who gets to be an American?’
A Nepalese immigrant, Gurung is one of those few established designers who has bravely made his political position known from the beginning, more ardently since President Trump’s election. For this collection, the designer found his drive and inspiration in American fashion history, exploring what garments define it and how, in turn, it has defined the global market.
On the runway, this translated to a progression through eras (and his own take on it all) moving from casual wear – most notably dresses and denim – to more formal eveningwear. For the finale, the evening’s showstopper and quintessentially ‘Instagramable’ moment, all the models, like pageant contestants, emerged wearing silk sashes printed with the same question: Who gets to be an American?

Photo by Alessandro Garofalo for NOWFASHION


We caught up with Gurung after the show, and he kindly took some time to speak to us about what inspired the collection, why he continues to be optimistic despite the times we live in, and why America can still be great.


This collection feels like a succinct trip through time, moving through American fashion, but also maybe your progression as a designer. Tell us a bit about what this collection means to you.
 
I came to America 20 years ago as an immigrant. I’d travelled all over the world but I had never come here, and I decided to come because I had heard of the “American Dream,” about the possibilities and the opportunities. While a kid back in Nepal, all I wanted to do was to find a job; my own dream was to work in fashion. So I came to America and moved here. I then started my brand after a decade of being here and eventually became an American citizen. That happened just a few years ago. From having a dream to having a chance to fulfill it, and now here I stand telling you my story.
 
Was there a specific moment when the idea for this collection came to you?
 
Yes, it’s an idea that came to me after a business meeting. During this meeting we were discussing what it meant to be American, what America is. To me, it is a collage and a sum of all things, ideas, and people. It’s about diversity and a richness of cultures. That’s what I’ve always believed; that is the reason I came here. A person at this meeting then asked me, “How can you define America? You don’t look American.” All of us in that room knew what he meant….
 
That must have been an intense moment. How did it go?
 
I focused on not getting angry, and this person and I had a deeper conversation about it. The thing is, there are many others who think and feel like this person did. If you don’t look a certain way, everyone is an outsider. In the end, the bottom line of the conversation basically led to the question: “Who gets to be an American?” I’ve been here for decades; I contributed a business; I pay my taxes; I produce the majority of my pieces in New York; and still it feels like it’s not enough. So with this collection, I wanted to basically express the hope and optimism that I came for.
 
Does the optimism that drove you to migrate to America feel the same today?
 

Look, in these current divisive times we all know what the reality and the facts are, you know? I speak about it. We need to speak about it! At the same time, I have to remind myself that what is happening socio-politically in this country right now doesn’t necessarily represent it; it doesn’t truly represent the majority of America…
 
You spend a lot of time traveling. Does your time around the US confirm this sentiment?

 
I do travel a lot. I meet people from different parts of the country, and the truth is that there are plenty of them who are optimistic. What is happening seems to represent just a small section of America, which unfortunately is grossly misinformed. The truth is, we immigrants are not dangerous people, we contribute to the culture, we celebrate this culture, and we pay our dues. We are American citizens, and I wish to continue seeing that through an optimistic lens.
 
Is this ultimately what the collection embodies and stands for then?
 
Yes, the collection represents that feeling. It’s an homage to who we are and what America is. So, for instance, the show opened up with denim, an American classic. The flowers, too, were there as a classic nod, especially the roses which are the national flower of the United States. And then there was the tie-dye, which as a Nepalese kid I used to notice on American hippies who used to come during that time.
 
So, this is not just a collage about America, but also what you imagined it was like before you came?
 
Absolutely, the collection is an expression of both. It’s the sum of memories of my childhood, of what I associated with America, of my experience, and then my living it. America as an idea, for immigrants, is generally a collage of what we imagined it to be, and how we then live it. The dresses and gowns, for example, are an American institution and I learned that once I got here. The charities, the galas… I kind of wanted to take that and express it through my work. Most of the collection is American pragmatism and sportswear mixed with these fantasies that I formed while looking at the work from Richard Avedon and Irving Penn. At the end of the show as well, when you see the various sashes for instance, it’s referencing beauty pageants, which to me is such an American institution. But as someone who has another point of view, who grew up somewhere else, I also wanted to question that as a tradition because these pageants are about a specific type of woman, who looks a certain way. I feel like that’s a bad idea and wanted to make the statement that this sash can belong to every woman, and everyone. In a way, that was meant to symbolize the question, ‘who gets to be American?’
 
So, who gets to be American?
 
Honestly, it’s not for me to say. I make clothes to express myself, and my intention is to start a dialog. It’s not for me to tell someone else who gets to be American, it’s about opening the conversation.

See the Prabal Gurung Ready To Wear Collection Spring Summer 2020 presented during NYFW


SHARE
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
SIMILAR ARTICLES
Matteo De Rosa Joins Dries Van Noten
By Alice Ierace
As one of Puig’s first moves since the acquisition of a majority stake of Dries Van Noten back in...
By Alice Ierace
As one of Puig’s first moves since the acquisition of a majority stake of Dries Van Noten back in 2018, the Spanish company appointed Italian Matteo De Rosa as the fashion brand’s latest President, effective February 1st.De Rosa brings a wealth of experience to the role, which includes six years...
As one of Puig’s first moves since the acquisition of a majority stake of Dries Van Noten back in 2018, the Spanish company appointed Italian Matteo De Rosa as the fashion brand’s latest President, effective February 1st.De Rosa brings a wealth of experience to the role, which includes six years at renowned global retailer Ports 1961 (where he also held the title of Managing Director during his...
Hyerès’ Fashion Finalists: Beyond Traditional Beauty
By Rebecca Voight
France’s upcoming Hyères International Fashion, Photography and Accessories Festival  (April...
By Rebecca Voight
France’s upcoming Hyères International Fashion, Photography and Accessories Festival  (April 23-27) turns thirty-five this year. Like the stylish world it celebrates, the finalists are making their mark with diversity, original materials, artisanal expertise and personal vision. Half of the...
France’s upcoming Hyères International Fashion, Photography and Accessories Festival  (April 23-27) turns thirty-five this year. Like the stylish world it celebrates, the finalists are making their mark with diversity, original materials, artisanal expertise and personal vision. Half of the shortlisted designers, five out of ten, are from France, which shows a marked increase. The rest,...
Mikimoto and Comme des Garçons Unveil Fine Jewellery Collaboration
By Alice Ierace
For the first time in Comme des Garçons' history, fashion designer Rei Kawakubo – the mastermind...
By Alice Ierace
For the first time in Comme des Garçons' history, fashion designer Rei Kawakubo – the mastermind behind both the label and Dover Street Market concept stores – has created a fine jewellery capsule collection using Mikimoto pearls.The collection represents the first stage of a two-year partnership...
For the first time in Comme des Garçons' history, fashion designer Rei Kawakubo – the mastermind behind both the label and Dover Street Market concept stores – has created a fine jewellery capsule collection using Mikimoto pearls.The collection represents the first stage of a two-year partnership between the two brands and aims at blending Kawakubo’s avant-garde approach with the heritage of...
Jean-Paul Gaultier's Last Show
By Gianluca Cantaro
L'Enfant Terrible de la mode never stops to surprise. He dropped the bomb announcing over social...
By Gianluca Cantaro
By Gianluca Cantaro
L'Enfant Terrible de la mode never stops to surprise. He dropped the bomb announcing over social media that this 50th anniversary Haute Couture show would've been the last, shaking up the whole fashion system. Then, continuing with his subtle approach, he started the celebration with the (fake)...
L'Enfant Terrible de la mode never stops to surprise. He dropped the bomb announcing over social media that this 50th anniversary Haute Couture show would've been the last, shaking up the whole fashion system. Then, continuing with his subtle approach, he started the celebration with the (fake) funeral scene from William Klein's 1966 movie "Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?." Lights down, curtain up...
Jean-Pierre Blanc's Unfailing Support for Creation
By Frédéric Martin-Bernard
In 1986, a then young Jean-Pierre Blanc imagined the Hyères Festival while studying. Thirty-five...
By Frédéric Martin-Bernard
In 1986, a then young Jean-Pierre Blanc imagined the Hyères Festival while studying. Thirty-five editions later, the fashion design and photography event which traditionally takes place on the French Riviera can be considered one of the fashion industry's leading events for the discovery of...
In 1986, a then young Jean-Pierre Blanc imagined the Hyères Festival while studying. Thirty-five editions later, the fashion design and photography event which traditionally takes place on the French Riviera can be considered one of the fashion industry's leading events for the discovery of up-and-coming talents. This year, the Festival will take place from April 23rd to 27th. Jonathan Anderson...
High Jewelry's Promising Prospects
By Elisabeta Tudor
Once reserved exclusively for an aristocratic and noble elite, jewellery has become increasingly...
By Elisabeta Tudor
Once reserved exclusively for an aristocratic and noble elite, jewellery has become increasingly democratic since the early 1990s. Many high jewellery brands such as Cartier, Tiffany & Co, Bulgari, and Boucheron have all experienced unprecedented growth during this period and inspired several...
Once reserved exclusively for an aristocratic and noble elite, jewellery has become increasingly democratic since the early 1990s. Many high jewellery brands such as Cartier, Tiffany & Co, Bulgari, and Boucheron have all experienced unprecedented growth during this period and inspired several iconic luxury Maisons — namely Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Gucci, and Giorgio Armani — to develop...
Travelling without Moving at Armani Privé
By Gianluca Cantaro
“The idea of this show originated from a memory. In 1990 I used an ikat blanket I found in a flea...
By Gianluca Cantaro
“The idea of this show originated from a memory. In 1990 I used an ikat blanket I found in a flea market to tailor three jackets for the spring summer collection”, explained Giorgio Armani before the Privé show. “What I liked about this particular technique was the blurred effect of the motifs,...
“The idea of this show originated from a memory. In 1990 I used an ikat blanket I found in a flea market to tailor three jackets for the spring summer collection”, explained Giorgio Armani before the Privé show. “What I liked about this particular technique was the blurred effect of the motifs, the fact that the decorations were never well defined and I conveyed this concept by concealing the...
The Show Must Go On
By Elisabeta Tudor
Ready-to-wear fashion shows by top brands are often elaborate star-studded affairs. Haute Couture...
By Elisabeta Tudor
By Elisabeta Tudor
Ready-to-wear fashion shows by top brands are often elaborate star-studded affairs. Haute Couture shows, however, take the glitz and glamour to an entirely different level, and Paris' currently on-going high fashion extravaganza is no exception. Speaking of glitz and glam: over his 50-year-long...
Ready-to-wear fashion shows by top brands are often elaborate star-studded affairs. Haute Couture shows, however, take the glitz and glamour to an entirely different level, and Paris' currently on-going high fashion extravaganza is no exception. Speaking of glitz and glam: over his 50-year-long career, Jean Paul Gaultier has excelled at staging fun-filled Haute Couture shows at his headquarters...