Color! Shades! Shapes! Fluidity! These are all things we love to see in any collection of clothing, but we love seeing it even more on the runway, which is what made watching designer Prabal Gurung’s Spring-Summer 2019 presentation such a delight.
Drawing inspiration from his native Nepal as well as time spent in New York, Tokyo, London and Mumbai, Gurung presented a utopian fantasy grounded in an accessibly inclusive perspective. Not surprising, since the designer—whose designs have been worn by Michelle Obama, Issa Rae, Kerry Washington and Pose’s MJ Rodriguez—was recently referred to by Washington Post fashion critic Robin Givhan as possibly the most “woke” man in fashion.
“We tell people, ‘Unless you look like this, you’re not worthy,’” Gurung told Givhan, in reference to his 2017 series of collaborations with with plus-size retailer Lane Bryant. “I wanted to reach out to plus-size women and say, ‘I see you and hear you.’” Notably, the designer has long included up to a size 22 in his own collection, but his words echoed sentiments he’d shared with style site Fashionista in June of that year:
“What I realized was that the changes I wanted to see, in the industry and the world, just didn’t happen by me doing a show with a few plus size models or a diverse group of models; it needed to continue, and I felt like if lending my voice could move the conversation forward, I want to be part of it.”
For his Spring-Summer 2019 collection, it wasn’t just the addition of plus size models that contributed to the diversity on Gurung’s runway, but a collection and cast that were multicultural and occasionally gender-fluid, bringing to life Gurung’s vision of a “cross-cultural journey, one that sees no borders.” In fact, as identified in the show’s program and reported by Yahoo Lifestyle, models from over 35 countries walked the runway in his Sunday presentation, over which hung hundreds of prayer flags.
The unifying language? Color.
Saturated hues and cultural references from Madras plaids and Scottish highland-ready houndstooths to indigenous embroidery and Uzbek and sari-styled silks happily coexisted on Gurung’s runway. The silhouettes ranged from boxy to body-skimming, with several pieces interchangeably worn by men, women and others. For Gurung, it not only represents a “cultural shift where traditional roles, gender and identifiers are breaking down,” as he wrote in the show notes, but is a reflection of his personal style, as well.
“I constantly borrow clothes from our womenswear collections, and growing up I’d often experiment with mixing menswear and womenswear to tell the story that I felt visually represented who I was,” the designer wrote on Facebook. “I’m lucky enough to come from an open-minded family who not only accepted this, but [was] also encouraged by to discover myself through this medium.”
In the front row? Tiffany Haddish, Kelly Rowland, Pose’s Indya Moore, journalist Elaine Welteroth and fashion-loving couple Victor Cruz and Karrueche Tran, to name a few. And on each seat, a card that said simply, “I am a Voter,” reminding Gurung’s guests that being a creative “doesn’t make us less concerned about what’s happening in the world,” as he told Givhan.
“Fashion is not the land of the stupids,” he said, later adding, “[it] gives one a platform, a way for me to speak to issues that are important to me,”
“Just the fact that he has this ‘I am a voter’ card, when you sit there you really need to be dedicated to this work,” Rowland told Women’s Wear Daily. “It’s a real moment and I feel really responsible and hope everyone else does, too.”
Gurung said it even more succinctly, taking his bow in a t-shirt that simply said “Vote.”