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Gurung was born in Singapore and raised in the Kingdom of Nepal's Kathmandu.
It was in Delhi, India that his design career truly began to take off. While studying at New Delhi's National Institute of Fashion Technology, he apprenticed at several local production and fashion houses and designed with Manish Arora. Gurung's travels took him to Melbourne and London, where he assisted stylists for various fashion shows and international publications. His transcontinental crossings provided the perfect base for unique experiences in the industry's most eclectic fashion meccas.
In 1999, after seven years of trotting the globe, Gurung moved to New York City. He began his career in New York interning for Donna Karen while attending the city's prestigious Parsons School of Design. In his first year, he was awarded the "Best Designer" title at the annual Parsons/Fit design competition. Soon after, he garnered rave reviews for his work in design from media outlets such as CBS News, Paper Magazine, and The New York Times.
After Parsons, Gurung spent two years with Cynthia Rowley's design team, which allowed him to gain even more invaluable experience on both the design and business end of New York's highly competitive fashion scene. Soon after, he became the design director at Bill Blass.
His own collection
After five successful years, Gurung left his post at Blass to launch his own collection, PRABAL GURUNG.
Innovative and with a unique design perspective, Prabal Gurung has made his mark on the world of fashion as a truly artistic designer and visionary.
Gurung fuses an old world-technique with cutting-edge modernity to create a daring yet timeless collection. His architectural approach to each piece makes him more than just a designer. He is an artist whose mission is to bring his unique vision to the forefront of the industry and lease an indelible mark on the work of fashion.
Some famous clients
His designs have been worn by leading ladies including US First Lady Michelle Obama and The Duchess of Cambridge, to name a few.
In 2010 he was the recipient of the Ecco Domani Fashion Fund Award and selected as runner up for the 2010 CFDA / Vogue Fashion Fund. In 2011 Gurung was honored as one of USA Network's Character Approved Award recipients, named goodwill ambassador of Maiti Nepal, a finalist of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award and was the recipient of the 2011 CFDA Swarovski Award for Womenswer. In 2012, Gurung was named Chief Designer of Onward Kashiyama's ICB brand. Most recently, Target announced its partnership with PRABAL GURUNG as the 2013 designer collaborator.
Dressing Michelle, Middleton, Gaga, Tina Fey: an interview
Prabal Gurung, the outlier in high fashion, has dressed some of the smartest, sassiest women in the world, including Michelle Obama, Kate Middleton, Lady Gaga, and Tina Fey. The 37-year-old Nepalese designer, who studied at NIFT and interned with Manish Arora, is today a leading light in the capitals of couture and an outspoken feminist. He speaks to Joeanna Rebello Fernandes on the eve of his first trunk show at Le Mill in Mumbai
We know you're a Bollywood buff, and you have talked about taking your design cues from Hindi cinema. Tell us how...
Growing up watching Hindi films allowed me to escape and dream. Hindi cinema was always about the most impossible things -girl meets boy, they dance, there are rainbows... it spoke to the optimist in me. The impossible could happen in Hindi films and I wanted that to happen to me too.Then again, the films challenged your senses. What the actors wore was sometimes in great taste, and sometimes in bad taste, but the bad taste sooner or later became part of the zeitgeist -after all, films are a mirror to what's happening culturally . I still remember, when Rangeela had come out, although it had great music and a good plot, the conversation was about the lead actress's fashion. It's when I realised even in other mediums, fashion can have its own voice.
Tom Ford started out as an actor, Vera Wang as a fashion editor. You began with hotel management at Dadar Catering College before moving to fashion. When did the penny drop?
After studying in Delhi, I wanted to come to Bombay . I joined the catering college because I believe when you go to a practical training school it changes the way you view work. But I immediately knew it was not my thing. You know, one needn't to go straight from school to high school, and so on. It's ok to take a break and refocus. When you have a list of things you don't want to do, it takes you closer to what you want to do. I then applied to NIFT, and interned with Manish Arora. I was part of his production team when he had his first runway . I remember watching it and feeling, my goodness, a designer is born. It was then that I decided that I wanted to give it a shot in New York where the energy is. Things then happened to me. I've always been calm and confident about what I will achieve and what I want in my life, there's never been chaos or panic.Growing up in Nepal and working in India gave me a strong sense of perseverance and grit.
What are your plans for India?
I'm looking for the right partner to work with. But what I really want to do is to work with a filmmaker on the costumes.Cinema is an indication of how society is changing. These are exciting times in India, and I'd love to have a brand here.
You've dedicated your Spring 17 collection to your mother. How has she influenced your work?
My mother is one of the strongest people I have known and she continues to motivate me every day. She has always said that she wants to change the idea that the higher you go, the fewer women there are.Last week, I introduced my mother and niece to Michelle Obama at the White House. It was an event to celebrate women (the screening of the documentary We Will Rise), and there in the front row were the First Lady and Meryl Streep, and in the second row, my niece and mother. This is something you can never plan.Watching them I thought, my mother has been advocating this her entire life (gender justice), and she can see now she was not alone.
What is your relationship with Michelle Obama like? She's been a long-standing fan...
After I launched my first collection I excitedly called my mother to share the positive reception from the industry and one of the first things she said to me was `let's talk once you've dressed the First Lady .' It seemed a far off moment at that point and when it happened it was one of my proudest moments.The First Lady's style exudes absolute grace and sophistication while at the same time, strength and confidence. It's an incredible balance to achieve and she does it well.
Card-carrying feminists often cribbed that women were slaves to fashion. Are fashion and feminism bedmates now?
Absolutely. Fashion is a language and a mode of self-expression. As a de signer, I understand and respect this notion, and like to de sign for the modern woman who wears the clothes her way , with beau ty, intelligence and poise. Women have the ability and power to communicate through fashion, to use it as a tool, rather than be owned by it.