Why Prabal Gurung is Fashion’s Fiercest Feminist

Why Prabal Gurung is Fashion’s Fiercest Feminist
EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ/AFP/Getty

If you need proof that Prabal Gurung is one of the most forward-thinking designers in fashion, just take a look at the last week and a half.

Gurung debuted his spring 2018 collection on Sept. 10 with one of the most diverse and body inclusive group of models that we’ve seen all season. Alongside Gigi and Bella Hadid, there was Ashley Graham, Aya Jones, and transgender model Andreja Pejic. Sitting front row, next to Cleo Wade and Huma Abedin, was activist and icon Gloria Steinem, who chose Gurung’s show as her first ever and took to Instagram to applaud the socially-conscious designer’s work in fashion and beyond.

Just last Sunday Gurung was at it again, designing a stunning blush gown for Hollywood’s favorite feminist, Elisabeth Moss, who wore it to pick up her first Emmy for The Handmaid’s Tale.

And now? He’s launching another brand new collection, this time for Lane Bryant, proving once and for all that great style should be available for all sizes and at all price points.

In the midst of his whirlwind few weeks, we sat down with the Nepali designer in N.Y.C. to chat about fashion, feminism, and his new projects.

VIDEO: InStyle Presents American Voices with Designer Prabal Gurung

InStyle: Congrats on your spring 2018 collection and your new fall collection for Lane Bryant! How do you approach the design process for each line?

Prabal Gurung: Even though they’re different customers and the price points are different, I still think the essence of the woman that I’m designing for is the same. She’s an assured woman, someone who celebrates style and substance equally. With Lane Bryant, I just have to work within a certain price point, while still making sure the look and quality of my designs are not compromised.

What inspired your Lane Bryant collection this season?

Paris was my inspiration because it’s a city that I’m in love with. I think every fashion person loves Paris. I wanted to capture the essence of the Parisian woman, who has that effortless ‘je ne sais quoi’ feel, but is still really polished.

Was it a particular trip that you took to France that sparked the idea?

Yes, actually! I go to Paris a few times a year because I’m fascinated by the city, the architecture, the locals. So last fall, when I was there, it was almost dusk and the colors of the sky were so warm and soft. That stuck with me when I was starting to design.

Is there one piece that you think every woman should have in her closet for fall?

For Lane Bryant, I designed this chic grey coat that I’m completely obsessed with (below). It works with tights if you need to go run around outside or if you want to dress it up, it’ll still look amazing. A great coat can take you places. You can wear anything underneath and look great.

Courtesy Lane Bryant

You picked Candice Huffine to be the face of your collection this year. Why was she a good fit?

I’ve known Candice for about 2 years now. She is beautiful—that’s obvious. But she also has so much substance. She is one of the kindest people I know. And very stylish, of course. Just the whole package.

You’re such a champion of strong women. You even got Gloria Steinem to sit front row at your show last week. How did that come about?

It was so exciting! I have been an admirer of hers ever since I was a kid. When I was little, I was always fascinated by strong women who could fight, like Wonder Woman and Charlie’s Angels. Women who’ve been through a lot and come out stronger on the other end and Gloria is at the top of that list. I read her book about a year and a half ago and I wrote to her about how it impacted me, and then last spring, I dedicated my whole collection to her. So this season, I just sent her an e-mail and said I’d love for you to come, and she came!

Astrid Stawiarz/Getty

Is it true that it was her first fashion show ever?

Yes! In her 83 years, she’s been to all the protests, women’s marches, legislatures—and this is the first fashion show she has ever been to. For me, that was my biggest celebrity guest.

Were you able to talk with her before or after the show?

I was backstage when I found out she was there, so I told my team I needed five minutes to go meet her. I went out front before the show—which I’ve never done before—and gave her a big hug and we talked for a little bit. It was special.

You’re known for being very diverse with your show castings including models of all backgrounds and sizes. Why is that important to you?

That’s the world that I want to live in! I came to New York for that. I knew it was a melting pot and I also knew it’s a city of misfits, so I always wanted to celebrate that diversity. And frankly speaking, I’m bored of a one-dimensional view of what beauty is.

Do you feel like the fashion industry as a whole is progressing with their inclusivity?

Very slightly. American fashion has made some progress, but our industry is far behind. The worst offenders are the Europeans. In London, Paris, and Milan, you don’t see anyone that looks like a real girl or real woman on the runway. To think that the world is so open and diverse, and then to see the shows is really disheartening.

Is it still exciting for you to see so many different kinds of women wearing your designs?

Yes, of course. For my own collection, I offer up to a size 22 and for Lane Bryant, up to a size 28. And I have private clients of all sizes. One of the first big things that I did was dress Oprah for the cover of O Magazine. I‘ve always just wanted to celebrate the essence of a woman. If I’m not able to dress women of different sizes, that’s just ridiculous.

You also designed Elisabeth Moss’s dress for her big Emmy win last Sunday. What was the inspiration behind her look?

It was a great red carpet moment in the most unassuming way. We collectively decided to go a simpler route. We didn’t want to do bling. In her show, The Handmaid’s Tale, everything is stripped away from the characters. I wanted to keep the design simple and prove a point that the biggest strength for a women is embracing her femininity. I’m a big advocate for femininity and feminism coming together.

Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

How did you land on that beautiful blush color?

We went back and forth on the color. We were going to do red because of the show. But I really wanted to embrace the femininity of blush pink. As a designer you want your dress to be the big, something people will talk about. But this was Elisabeth’s moment. Why she won was much bigger than the dress itself.

Prabal Gurung x Lane Bryant’s fall collection will be available in Lane Bryant stores and on lanebryant.com on September 25. To see all of the looks, keep scrolling.

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