Vogue CS in English

Checking in with Prabal Gurung

For this week’s #stayhome interview, our International Editor chats with fashion designer Prabal Gurung about everything from Michelle Obama and New York’s “impossible dreamers” to the teachings of Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön.
Hello! How are you? Are you in New York? 
“Hello! Yes, I am in New York. Staying healthy and safe. And keeping inspired.”
I’m in Prague at home with my family on our 59th day of sheltering in place. Have you ever been to Prague before? 
“No, unfortunately, I have never been to Prague before.”
Prabal Gurung
I've been following your Instagram posts and one of the quotes that really hit me is "the unknown is the state I find the most comfort in, for it allows my mind to dream of a future that I promise myself will be nothing short of magical." Being optimistic about a better future is very important for all of us right now - in the meantime, what are some physical things that you are finding comfort in? 
“Everyday I practice gratitude for something simple and beautiful I find in my apartment or when I go for a run. Sometimes I find comfort and delight in an old book I forgot I had or a corner of my neighborhood I find unexpected beauty in.”
What television shows or movies are you watching? 
“I am currently watching Mrs. America on Hulu and rewatching old favorites like Wuthering Heights, Pride & Prejudice and The Sound of Music.” 
Any favorite meals that you’ve been cooking? 
“I am very lucky to have my mom living in another wing of my building and she is an incredible chef. We eat meals together (while social distancing).” 
Any great books that you could recommend?
I am currently reading Normal People by Sally Rooney for the first time - it’s fantastic! Also, in uncertain and trying times, I always turn back to the teachings of When Things Fall Apart by Buddhist nun and teacher Ani Pema Chödrön. This book is my constant reminder to practice gratitude even in the most difficult times. I always return to this book when I am feeling emotional or distressed, it always guides me back to feelings of hope and optimism.”
What about podcasts? 
“I am an avid fan of the New York Times podcast The Daily. The recent episode featuring Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was incredible.”
You came to New York in 1999 to finish your studies at Parsons The New School for Design. We met in New York, twelve year ago, when we both lived in the East Village and worked out at Crunch Fitness on Lafayette Street. Your Fall 2020 show, which you presented at the iconic Rainbow Room in February, was a celebration of New York. Please tell me what New York means to you and how it inspired this collection. 
“I always say that New York is a city of misfits. When I arrived in New York over twenty years ago, I felt immediately embraced by the city and the amazing, audacious, beautiful dreamers who came here to pursue their most impossible dreams and creative aspirations. This is a city of fantasy, of grit and tenacity. New York is not just my home, it is also my heart.” 
What are your three favorite looks from the collection?
“That is an impossible question! I was exceptionally proud of the looks featuring custom prints we created in collaboration with artist Isabelle Menin. Since the collection was inspired by ‘impossible dreamers,’ I felt that partnering with an artist was a very natural fit and something we have been looking to do for awhile. Menin’s incredible floral portraits really spoke to me. They have such a romantic and yet dark quality to them.”
Prabal Gurung Fall 2020
Prabal Gurung Fall 2020
Prabal Gurung Fall 2020
You launched your eponymous brand in 2009 and dressed former First Lady Michelle Obama a year later. What was that experience like? 
“Dressing Michelle Obama so early in my career was surreal, it is one of those experiences where I still pinch myself and it feels like it happened to someone else. In the start of my career, I would always call my mom to update her on the incredible women I was dressing. She once said to me, ‘That’s all great, but let’s talk once you have dressed Michelle Obama.’ When it finally happened, I called her immediately and said, ‘Okay, let’s talk.’”
Since then you've dressed everyone from Miley Cyrus and The Duchess of Cambridge to Reese Witherspoon and Nicki Minaj. Is there anyone left that you would like to see in your designs? 
“I would love to dress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Elizabeth Warren.”
On a different but equally important note, in 2011, you and your family established the Shikshya Foundation Nepal, a charity to provide education to underprivileged women and children in your home country. Can you tell me more about that? 
“First, thank you so much for asking me about my foundation. My work with Shikshya Foundation Nepal is extremely important to me. The organization started with the goal to touch the lives of 300 children and has since impacted over 70,000 people with all of our various initiatives. The main focus of the organization is to provide education opportunities for children and women in Nepal in the hopes of creating the next league of leaders towards a more just and equitable society. We also focus heavily on the amazing healing power of art and how harnessing one’s creativity helps to empower their soul and mind. We support students financially and emotionally and mentor them from their youngest years all the way through higher education. We also support schools in remote areas of Nepal and recently launched a program for female prisoners.”
And, lastly, what is the first thing you will do when things are “back to normal”? 
“I have really embraced the fact that ‘normal’ as we knew it, will never be the same again. It has taken me some time but I do truly feel that I have embraced that fact. And I am extremely hopeful for what this new future has in store for us all. During this time, I have thought a lot about how we can reboot and use this time to reinvent ourselves - this also pertains to my brand. We are constantly thinking about how we can rethink the way we do business to be more sustainable, more impactful and help the world heal through our art which, in this case, is fashion.”