Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Up Close Look: Conversation with Prabal Gurung at FIT

Photo courtesty of

Could there be a more adorable designer than Prabal Gurung? Lani and I caught him on Tuesday night at FIT museum for a Conversation with Prabal with FIT director & chief curator, Valerie Steele. He is so humble and genuine as he talks about his successes and how he got his start. When talking about how creating fashion takes a village, he graciously acknowledges his staff’s hard work, dedication and ability to help generate design ideas. He talked about how when he launched during the financial crises, and some people thought he was crazy but he felt the timing was right and he joked that if it didn’t work out, “I could always blame it on the recession”. His gamble paid off and things fell into place as he soon had people that believed so strongly in his abilities that without seeing a single sketch, he was able to secure a venue, a stylist and models for free for his very first collection. Friends even left their full time positions without promise of security to invest in the designer.

Photo of a young Gurung on vacation with his mother

The Singapore born, Nepalese raised designer talked about his beginnings growing up in a Third World country where Fashion Design was dismissed as a hobby and not a real job. In spite of no one understanding his desire to pursue fashion he pressed forward and was initially educated in India and cut his teeth working for Indian designer, Manish Arora. He soon found himself styling in places from London to Melbourne.

A few years later he decided to make his move Stateside where he attended Parsons and immediately took up working with Cynthia Rowley. The designer decided to take an interesting move and decided to work in Production as opposed to design. This decision was made because Gurung was confident in his design capabilites after design school but he wanted to learn as much about every aspect of the industry possible.

After 3 years at Cynthia Rowley, he was hired by Bill Blass and assumed the role of Creative Director. He was initially hesitant to work there but after visiting the company and witnessing how they made clothing, he was convinced it would be a great place to learn. Gurung felt that the way clothes were made at Blass was as close to Parisian couture as an American company could reach. It was here he witnessed what an $800/yd fabric looked like and discovered that a fabric could be gorgeous but if it was not relevant to the modern woman, there was really no point.

As for his style MO, he strives to create for the woman who is what he likes to call, “The Thinking Man’s Sex Symbol”. Always keeping designs nuanced, subtle and within a contained madness. Despite a movement at the time of his launch towards body-con, Gurung felt as many women were attracted to one type of dressing, there had to be an anti-thesis, another type of woman from who would be seeking the sexiness of subtlety.

The greatest challenge of a young designer Gurung feels is getting over, “the delusion of Grandeur”. “Fame can not be your ultimate goal”. As fame is not all it’s cracked up to be. He is a designer who believes in paying your dues and he takes pride in it as he quips that, “I’m not as young as I look”. “The best advice I could give to anyone wanting to be a designer would be: patience, patience, patience. It’s OK to wait, it’s OK to learn. And if you’re willing to work hard, this industry will respond, believe me”. As he is a firm believer that “passion and hard work” will always pay off. I have to say that I too am a believer (perhaps because I've been working in the industry for the last while and it gives me hope that paying my dues will pay off!). Gurung is not flash in the pan, but has the knowledge, guts and heart to last, plus a winning personality to match. See for yourself in the vid clip I caught of him. I heart Prabal, I hope you will too!


Anonymous said...

i adore him!

SaraKateSwan said...

He is such a great genuine man, really inspiring. I was there too (Ms Zac!) Check out my little write up on the evening x

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