Prabal Gurung Dreams of Nepal

By
Photography Shawn Brackbill

Published February 10, 2014

ABOVE: A MOOD BOARD BACKSTAGE AT PRABAL GURUNG.

Prabal Gurung was standing backstage at Moynihan Station on Saturday, in between a mood board and polaroids of his Fall 2014 collection, with a foot in each world. The mood board depicted scenes of everyday life in Gurung’s homeland, Nepal—the burnt oranges, cinnamons, and fiery reds that would reappear in his designs. Men and women wore yards of elegant fabrics, wrapped in layers and shawls. Saris were reimagined by Gurung as modern, intricately draped blouses; Mongolian lamb coats cloaked both Himalayan goatherds and Hamptons-bound gothamists. Nepal is his muse, infusing both the designer and his creations with a soulfulness. Gurung returns to the country each year, often posting the breathtaking photos on his Instagram.

“I just really enjoy life,” Gurung said. “I really feel blessed that I’m able to do what I love and make a living at it and have people come and see it. I mean, what an incredibly blessed life! The other thing is to constantly challenge myself, not only in terms of fashion but also spiritually, as a person. You want to question what is important and why is it important,” he continued. “I don’t have all the answers but I’m very curious to know and learn. I also surround myself with people who know more than I do.”

Now in his label’s fifth year, Gurung was reflective. “It’s our anniversary, so it’s emotional. I went home and went to Mustang, in the mountains between Nepal and China, and was so inspired by the landscape and the rich culture and heritage. I loved the textures, the draping, the palette. Everything was so beautiful. This little kingdom wasn’t open to the world until 1991. When the Dalai Lama was exiled, he was there; they have the largest collection of Buddhist scriptures. It got me thinking about what it meant, in this crowded, noisy world of ours, to be in a serene, secluded, spiritual place.”

Large saffron-hued discs, invoking ceremonial gongs, lined Gurung’s runway, imparting a Zen serenity. Stunning crimson and pale-orange draped embroidered organza blouses and asymmetrically-hemmed wrapped skirts reflected the Tibetan silhouettes.

Perennially in demand on red carpets (and the White House), this season Gurung dressed Sandra Bullock and Zoe Saldana at the Golden Globes. Hailee Steinfeld, watching the show from the front row along with Karolina Kurokova, revisited the white Gurung gown she wore to attend her first Golden Globes ceremony in 2011. “It was the first gown I ever wore,” said Steinfeld. “There’s something about his designs that you know are Prabal, but are always unexpected. That’s what I love about him so much.”

An Oscar nominee for the Coen Brothers’ True Grit, Steinfeld is currently in New York filming Ten Thousand Saints with Ethan Hawke (from American Splendor directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini) and goes to Atlanta next month to film Term Life. Romeo and Juliet was released last fall. “It was my second film, so to take on a role like Juliet was a big deal for me, a real challenge. I learned so much, and it’s something I’m really proud of and happy that I did,” she said.

Kurokova, sporting black leather Converses and Gurung’s turquoise print pants, said, “I loved his whites and grays and also the burgundy and darker reds, the layering, the sweaters with the chiffon skirts. It was a balance between feminine yet strong, yin and yang, casual and cool and comfortable. It was perfection. I would want to wear everything.”

Of course Kurokova wasn’t the only supermodel in the house. Joan Smalls, who closed the show in an exquisite navy chiffon gown, raced through the backstage on her way to her next show, laughing: “Watch out, mama’s gotta go!” But not before pausing to tell us how she and her close pal Gurung celebrate each season at his afterparty: “I always make sure to have a little dance-off with Prabal to show who has the best moves.”

For more of our backstage photos from Prabal Gurung, click here.