One of New York’s top designers has thrust Nepal onto the map of high fashion, unveiling one of the most exciting catwalk shows of the season, inspired by his Himalayan homeland.
Award-winning designer Prabal Gurung unveiled his fall/winter 2014 season in the cavernous recesses of New York’s Moynihan Station on Saturday, watched by a packed house led by style queen Anna Wintour.
Prabal Gurung, who formed his label in February 2009 after studying in India and New York, laughed it off.
The designer has dressed some of the world’s most famous women. He grew up in Kathmandu, and told AFP that his new collection was a glimpse of home.
“I wanted to share with the rest of the world a little piece of me. It’s our fifth year now and, you know, show the world a glimpse of where I’m from,” he said.
Effervescent and charming, dressed in jeans and a white T-shirt, the 34-year-old was delighted to show off a notice board backstage covered with pictures from his homeland.
He travels back to Nepal once a year and loves to trek in the Himalayas, often just with a porter for company to recharge his batteries from the chaos of the jet-set life.
Gurung chose Mustang, a plateau on the Chinese border where his mother’s ancestors come from, and came away inspired.
“I was so taken aback by the culture, the landscape, the colors, but more than anything it was the serenity.
“It was so beautiful, especially in this world where everyone is so chattery you know, so that was the starting point for the collection,” he said.
When Gurung returned to New York, he got further inspiration from oil paintings of friend British artist Cecily Brown, whose prints he also pointed out on the notice board.
“It’s like this chaotic place, amazingly and beautifully colourful and yet so peaceful at the same time,” Gurung said.
“All the prints, all the textures, all the embroidery was informed by this.”
His show featured pashmina and anklets from Nepal, which were made into shoes in Italy, embroidered feathers from India, chiffon from Paris and sunglasses from London.
It was a riot of claret, navy, scarlet, peach and gray, models in minimal makeup powering down the runway in furs, feathers, capes, sequins and elegant chiffon evening gowns.
So what phrase sums up the Prabal Gurung woman of 2014?
“Femininity with a bite,” he said. “Very, very feminine and not afraid to have the fight, have the strength.”
Gurung paid tribute to Wintour, editor in chief of US Vogue and immortalized in popular culture by Meryl Streep in the film “The Devil Wears Prada.”
Wintour sat in the front row of his show, wearing her trademark sleek bob and black sunglasses.
“She has been the biggest champion for me,” Gurung said, adding that camaraderie in the fashion industry is too often overlooked in favour of superficiality.
“There is such strength and community here and she leads it.”
Wintour wished him luck before the show. Asked if she had given him a verdict, Gurung laughed: “She’ll tell me.”
Asked whether he had a message for people back home in Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the world, Gurung was almost overcome with emotion for a moment.
“Oh wow,” he said. “Just keep on dreaming and living in hope.”