With lessons from Michelle Obama, Nicki Minaj, and Gigi Hadid
Most designer dossiers are close-ups of clothes. Not Prabal Gurung. For his first book, the Nepal native wrote his own autobiography and scanned 10 years worth of mood boards and sketches. The result is half motivational speech, half look book… with a celebrity parade in between. (Sarah Jessica Parker even wrote the forward.) Here, Gurung shares some standout pages.
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“When I think about starting my own label, it was ten years ago, but it feels like yesterday. It also feels like it happened to someone else. Seeing Michelle Obama wear my dress is a little like the whole book itself: a manifestation of an immigrant’s dream coming true.”
Michelle Obama in a Prabal Gurung gown at the 2010 White House Correspondents Dinner
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“I’m very organized. Like, I’m the person who organizes my fridge. So I know where all my old sketches are, where all the collection mood boards are. In the [fashion] industry, you have to learn to live with a certain amount of chaos. So I archive everything, just in case. Still, it took a year and a half to get everything together for the book.”
Frida Gustavsson (and her sketch!) in Prabal Gurung Spring 2011
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“I don’t like playing favorites, but some looks are turning points. This one [from 2014], with the head-to-toe red, it’s so significant. That collection was the first collection that leaned fully into [Nepal]. Coming to terms with and realizing my biggest strength is my heritage.”
Nate Westling on the Fall 2014 catwalk
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“Ten years ago, I was probably one of the few designers talking about women in positions of power, about representation… and people said, ‘Oh, you’re crazy’ when I wanted to do inclusive sizing. Now some of those same people are trying to learn from us… That’s the kind of rebel I want to be.”
Ashley Graham backstage at Prabal Gurung in 2018
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“When you’re in school, you learn technically what to do and not do. They’ll say, ‘This is color harmony. This is science. These are the rules.’ And that’s important, but I had to learn it… and then unlearn it. The rhythm and language becomes my own rather than someone else dictating it. I had to do my own thing!”
Purple and orange and pink? Sure!
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“The world has changed so much, politically, since I started working in fashion. It’s not a time to be passive or silent… People said I shouldn’t be talking about politics as a fashion designer, but I didn’t believe that. If the biggest weapon we have is our own individual voice, we’ve got to use our voice however we can. For me, that’s through fashion.”
Bella Hadid, Prabal Gurung, and Joan Smalls in 2017
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Prabal Gurung by Prabal Gurung, with Sarah Jessica Parker and Hanya Yanagihara, available now.
Read the article on Elle.