Prabal Gurung used his fall 2017 show during New York Fashion Week as his platform to effectively send out two significant messages: 1) "the future is female," with a parade of pro-feminist, politically fueled tees, and 2) the importance of diversity, by casting not only models of different races, but those, like Candice Huffine and Marquita Pring, who wear clothes that are larger than sample size. And Gurung wants you to know that no, this wasn't an instance of stunt casting for a quick-hit way to gain attention or virality—and I know this because he said so himself a month ago when we sat down to chat about his upcoming Lane Bryant collection during the campaign shoot with Ashley Graham.
"I don't believe in stunt casting—I hate it when people are like, 'OK, I need however many of XYZ and however many of XYZ' to fulfill some quota," he tells InStyle. "I want to live in a world where this conversation is not a trending topic. It becomes the norm. I really am surprised at how slow our industry is at adapting to this because no longer is it interesting to have a one-dimensional point of view about fashion and beauty. We need to have a diverse conversation, and we have to wake up now and have this conversation now before it's too late, because the world is already moving in that direction."
After a series of events—his Lenny Letter about diversity in fashion, a trunk show where he saw that one curvy customer was too shy or intimidated to try on any clothing, and a panel he attended, where the issue of body inclusivity was never addressed—he took it upon himself to do something about it. And so, he partnered up with Lane Bryant to create a very well-edited collection of 12 looks that deliver his trademark Prabal Gurung greatness, but with a greater degree of accessibility.
"I've dressed everyone from the [former] First Lady to the Duchess of Cambridge to A-listers, and I have my Shikshya Foundation that educates women and girls; so now, how am I dressing for a certain size?" he asks. "In order for me to have a holistic conversation about what fashion truly is today, then I have to give choices to women."
He's quick to point out that the "Prabal Gurung woman" is virtually the same as the "Prabal Gurung for Lane Bryant woman." She's self-assured, she's chic, and she defines herself, not by her dress size, but by her knowledge and experiences. And for Gurung, designing for that woman means sophistication, quality, and considered design. The zipper detail around the waist of a leather jacket carves out an hourglass silhouette, the black jumpsuit has a wrap top that's adjustable to your bust, and a lace-up pencil skirt hugs every curve in the best way possible. "I live for those little details—it's like a secret between me and my consumer," he says. "It's special, and I wanted her to have that with this collection."
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For him, the obvious choice for his muse, the model for his campaign was Ashley Graham. "She's immensely inspiring and just so amazing," Gurung says. "I wanted her to represent the collection because she is the woman I design for—not just for Lane Bryant, but for everything."
The admiration is mutual too. "I was like, he's here for the big girls!" Graham says of her reaction when she first learned about the collab. "It's really exciting because there's not a lot of designers who are willing to step out of their comfort zone and create a line specifically for curvy women. And Prabal being one of the highest end designers that [Lane Bryant] has ever worked with is huge. Word on the street is that you cannot find high-end designer clothing in your size, and now—boom—Lane Bryant's going to offer it to you. So, there you go."
The Prabal Gurung x Lane Bryant collection will be available Feb. 27 at lanebryant.com and Lane Bryant stores. Scroll down to see more of Graham's campaign images and the full lookbook.