Stop and smell the New York City bodega flowers, that’s what Prabal Gurung wants people to do.
After taking a season off from showing, he’s back with a fall collection inspired by New York City from the ground up.
While others fled during the pandemic, the activist designer stayed. And he logged a lot of miles on his bicycle these past few months, attending Black Lives Matter protests in Washington Square Park, pedaling by the historic Stonewall Inn where the gay rights movement was born, seeing kids in their vintage finery vogueing at Chelsea Piers.
“I realized New York is a city because of its people,” he said of the experience of soaking it all in. “It made me remember why I moved here from Nepal 20 years ago. To see communities coming together even during the pandemic, the restaurants spilling over into the streets…and nobody was wearing sweats, everyone was kinda dressing up. Dressing up went from becoming a chore to becoming a choice.”
He translated that feeling of freedom into a collection that felt more versatile than ever, and lighter — literally — capturing some of the corseted and ruffled exuberance of ballroom culture as seen in the TV show “Pose,” but in cotton, and layering in casual pieces like cargo pants and joggers to add the signature ease of American sportswear.
You could feel the joy in his non-gendered pink pant suit, black-and-white polka dot corseted minidresses, and peplum tops layered over body suits, or exaggerated “wild pants,” as he called them, with trumpet-flared legs.
“I wanted to create the idea of theater, that the world is a stage,” he said.
Gurung loves a bit of sparkle, which he deployed on glittery, hand-pleated chiffon blouses, rose floral Lurex twisted and cutout rose dresses, and a black cashmere coat dripping with crystal bows. And feathers! A fluff of a skirt covered in ostrich plumes, paired with a white, compact little cropped round neck jacket was dreamy.
Tailoring ranged from an arresting red pantsuit that was the designer’s ode to Vice President Kamala Harris, to a sleek black tuxedo with red satin lining and lapel, worn over a corset and flared trousers. Not skimping on the drama, a trio of pink and red silk moire gowns with sculpted blooms, flounces, bows and off-shoulder sleeves had 1980s attitude, but without all the fuss. He kept them tea length.
“I wanted to capture the spirit of movement,” he said. “This was a collection I came to the office, sat here alone, and sketched the entire thing. It was so cathartic. It reassured me that everything can go away but not my own skill and talent.”