Prabal Gurung Knows Color




Spring 2011’s explosion of color may seem relentless, but as New York Fashion Week progresses, it’s clear that few collections will rival the sharply executed color-blocking Prabal Gurung presented Saturday. With jolting sky blue shift dresses boasting abstract shapes that looked cut, decoupage style, from fiery orange and marigold construction paper, it was an eye-popping affair. Asked about his decision to go bold and bright, Gurung explained, “I wanted to stay away from dark hues and use strong ones that I could have fun with and that are reflective of the spring.” It’s no wonder Gurung feels so comfortable with an adventurous palette—he was born with it: “So many of the colors I use are inspired by the colors that surrounded me when growing up in Nepal.” He added that elements of Maggie Betts’s forthcoming documentary on Zambia had a “big impact” on the color palette. The geometric influence of African art is palpable throughout the collection, right down to the dramatic multi-strapped heels shoe designer Nicholas Kirkwood created for the occasion (they were inspired by the striped patterns of tribal necklaces).

Gurung’s influences may be rooted in exotic tradition, but his construction techniques are strikingly modern. Years of tutelage under Bill Blass have earned him a reputation as one of New York’s most inventive tailors. Only four seasons into his line, his priorities as a designer—an affinity for achingly precise lines and unusual fabric selections—have earned him a level of recognition that’s put his work into the wardrobe of Michelle Obama, and his runway show among veterans at Lincoln Center. “The craftsmanship that goes into each piece is crucial,” he says of his priorities. “I have been able to really refine the look and aesthetic.” Which isn’t to say that he’s not still getting creative. For example, Spring’s resplendent opening shifts were done entirely in scuba fabrics; many of the most intriguing looks incorporated seam tape, a mechanism which keeps body lines sternly in place–the way Gurung likes them.