To say the least, there was a lot going on in Prabal Gurung’s spring collection. Romantic prints, piping, splicing, sheer tulle and harnesses, sometimes all on the same garment. Prints left the biggest impression. A series of photographs titled “Sensual Flowers,” by the Japanese artist Nobuyoshi Araki, inspired Gurung’s engineered prints in shades of purple, teal and black. They were arranged symmetrically down the front of georgette dresses, the patterns matching up like Rorschach images, with a debt to those highly distinctive prints from the last full collection by Alexander McQueen. Gurung’s were airier, less aggressive than McQueen’s, yet the influence was clear. Gurung shouldn’t necessarily lose points for it — his prints were beautifully rendered and had impact, whether on dresses, sporty piped track shorts or fitted blazers. During a preview, he noted that a close-up look at Araki’s work showed a sense of the erotic in the decaying flowers, which tied into another key motif in the collection.
As much as fashion loves to fetishize fetish wear, it also loves to take a concept flush with stereotypes and tweak it. “I wanted to take the old fetish, like nylon and PVC and everything, and treat it in a more precious way,” said Gurung. The most overt effects were bondage details on dresses — corded harnesses worn over something quite pretty. But he also played with latex, as in a hand-painted rubber coat and a dress that looked like paint had been poured over it. It was actually woven.
Gurung did not suffer from a lack of ideas, even if he struggled to put them together at times. Strong on their own, the prints worked well on the lineup’s simpler shapes, yet at times were mired in excess details, such as sheer panels, cutouts, black piping and bursts of multicolored tulle. Still, he pushed himself with this collection, not only in terms of color and print, which, until his last resort collection, have gone largely unexplored, but also a younger aesthetic. Lest anyone forget, Gurung burst onto the scene after years in the studio at Bill Blass.