Prabal Gurung Fall/Winter 2019

by Long Nguyen

‘We Are the World’ should be the title given to Prabal Gurung’s fall show which featured clothes inspired by a recent visit to Jhochhen Street known to many as ‘Freak Street’ and the birthplace of the hippie movement in the late 60’s when westerners would embark on a journey for self-discovery in search of peace, love, and community. Gurung reimagined this journey where travelers departed from Kathmandu to Delhi, Tehran, Beirut, through Rome and Paris– shedding themselves to adopt a new way of being and dressing, resulted from the free exchanges of ideas – both philosophical and sartorial – in search of a “home that sees us, hears us, understand us, and embrace us with freedom and empathy.” If that sounds like activism, it is nothing new to Gurung who had taken personal, social, and political causes dear to him onto his runway and in his collections ever since the finale of his fall 2017 show as each of the models wore white tee-shirts printed with different slogans such as ‘The Future is Female,’ ‘I Am an Immigrant,’ ‘Revolution has no borders,’ and ‘Nevertheless She Persisted.’  

In odes to the greatly admired Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Lacroix, both of whom were greatly influenced by their travels to the Far East, the show exploded with super bright colors such as the pomegranate and ruby reversible quilted duvet coat paired with a saffron tie-dyed blouse or a turquoise nylon down puffer with a tie-dyed cashmere turtleneck and ruffle skirt. Gurung combined traditional handicraft work like brocade of hand loomed Varanasi and a hand painted metallic palace motif with the language of sportswear and a tinkling of streetwear mixed in sweaters, jackets and dresses– all done within his own framework of innovation and quality.

Unlike the past seasons where the clothes had a more precious feel to them, the garments here felt like they had been previously worn– perhaps intentionally in a nod to how the hippie generation abhorred establishment garments in favor of a more DIY approach. With the recent opening of a popup store on Bleecker Street, there was greater emphasis on tailored daywear including a houndstooth sharp shoulder jacket with black bow closure, a striped belted jacket with patch pockets, and a variety of pant silhouettes from black gabardine trousers to fancier Varanasi cargo pants, a bit dressier but still retaining that sporty allure– a theme recurring theme throughout collection. The formal and the casual mixed effortlessly like the colorful silk tuxedo shirt paired with a simple pink tube skirt.

On the menswear side, first shown a year ago for fall 2018, Gurung established his signature with linear forms including long shirts and a loose-fitting silhouettes seen in the houndstooth blouson, kimono belted shirt, and long print taffeta tunic under a jacquard-fringed wool sweater. The hand-loomed Varanasi brocade bomber jacket and matching pants worn by Kohei Takabatake will be certain to have a great performance at retail. With the menswear market blooming, Gurung should ponder, and perhaps in future seasons, place more emphasis on adding a wider range of men’s products to his current offerings, just like he had done with the couture Atelier dresses.

In a pioneering move, the show’s program listed each model’s name with their birth origins – Zoe (Belgian), Solomon (Columbian), Nora (British Indian), Alton (Jamaican Ghanan), Blesnya (Kenyan), Hoyeon (Korean), and Kohei (Japanese). Prabal Gurung was not alone in his advocacy of a united world of shared cultures. On this same night, and on the other side of the country, Childish Gambino’s “This is America” won the Grammys for song of the year and record of the year, the song acting as a metaphor for race and gun violence, income inequality, and social struggle in America.