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  Prabal Gurung: Fade to Light  


NEW YORK:  Prabal Gurung, the rising star of the fashion world, settles into a booth at a café in the Lower East Side. Outside, it’s a bright and crisp winter morning.

“The regular, please,” he says. The waiter confirms: two eggs, bacon and potatoes, and multi-grain toast. After thinking about it for a second, Prabal settles on a side of orange juice, as he almost always does. He is calm, smiles a lot naturally, and is ever engaging and curious about a range of issues that have nothing to do with fashion.

This time the conversation veers into renewable energy, refugees, and Nepal in general. It’s almost as if he doesn’t not have a collection to show at the New York Fashion Week in a matter of days.

But he does – on Saturday, February 11. And as in the past, it remains one of the most highly anticipated shows during the weeklong fashion event.

Prabal in his studio. Behind him, some of the colors of his new collection.

In fact, to say that a lot is going on in the world of Prabal Gurung might be a slight understatement. In early 2011, his siblings and him started the non-profit Shikshya Foundation in Nepal. Last year, he produced four collections – not just the regular Fall 2011 and Spring 2012, but also the Resorts as well as the Pre-Fall 2012. He also designed the new staff uniforms for Sephora, one of the world’s largest chains of cosmetics stores, owned by Louis Vuitton and Moet Hennessy.

Prabal has teamed up with Nicholas Kirkwood again to come up with pumps, such as this.

The fashion label ICB, whose previous designers includes Michael Kors, named Prabal its Chief Designer. And so while his Fall 2012 collection took shape in December, Prabal also designed more than 300 looks for the ICB line, to be launched online on February 15. But this is where he thrives.

“It doesn’t get easier., I don’t think anyone gets into fashion because it’s is easy,” he says in his studio in the Garment District. “It’s a very familiar feeling of safety for me to be in the world of my mind and my thoughts. That was the place where I used to be when I was in school. My thoughts, my dreams and my ideas were my escape. And it still is.”

Fade to light: fabrics and colors from Prabal’s upcoming Fall 2012 collection.

Designing, he adds, is the most pleasurable part of his work. So it is hardly surprising that the number of looks this collection will be at 42, as opposed to the mid 30s in the past. “It would easily reach 50 if I had my way,” he says with a laugh.

The new collection uses shredded chiffon, feathers, sheer fabric, and Neoprene, some of the designer’s favorite materials. The looks are decidedly striking and bold. There is also some exquisite use of fur and at least two stunning black dresses with embroideries, including one with blue stones. Another piece of embroidery that stands out is a golden cow’s skull on a white-feathered dress.

These sunglasses will be on the runway on Saturday, February 11.

Georgia O’Keeffe’s Cow’s Skull, an icon in the western art world, also has a more personal resonance for Prabal. And the motif is omnipresent in this collection.
“What transfixed me was the skull, a cow’s skull, especially coming from Nepal and considering the Hindu significance of the cow,” he explained. Indeed, this collection, titled ‘Uncursed,’ draws plenty from religion and the idea of ritualistic purification.

“Religion becomes such a huge part of your growing up, a part of who you are, a part of our society, and you want to either run away, or you want to follow it, or you hate it,” he said, sipping coffee. “But whether you believe in it or not, even if you’re are an atheist, somehow religion is affecting you.”

The Fall 2012 mood board.

These ideas, with inspirations like Yoko Ono’s exhibition Uncursed and the Blue Rose invented in Japan not too long ago, are some of the elements that shaped the new collection which “flows like the personal process of uncursing.” The accessories themselves have a sense of religious adornment, too. Even the hats – modified visors – plays with the idea of looking like a Bishop’s hat.

Accessories from the upcoming Fall 2012 collection.

“I want people to feel what I was feeling when I was designing this. I think every piece in the collection is a part of what you’re going through,” he added. “It’s about one’s own spiritual journey.”

On Saturday, minutes after noon, that journey will unfold for the world to see, and fade to light.

You can reach the author at and on Twitter @kashishds.

Published on 2012-02-10 17:14:16
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