In 16 years, Prabal Gurung made sure he became a name to reckon with in the international fashion industry. From the First Lady of the US, Michelle Obama, and the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, to Bollywood actors such as Alia Bhatt and Deepika Padukone — the designer’s envious list of celebrity clientele is never-ending. Yet, when asked if he’s achieved his goals, he quotes lines from a Robert Frost poem, and says, “I’ve got miles to go before I sleep.” Here, he talks about his bond with India and his love for Bollywood.
The designers’ clientele includes many Bollywood actors including Alia Bhatt, Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra, among others. (Photo: Yogen Shah)
You are known for your obsession with Bollywood. Does the industry ever inspire your approach to design?
I grew up watching Hindi films. Bollywood allowed me to dream the impossible. It allows you to fly. And that’s what is amazing about Bollywood. So, yes, it influences me, it allows me to be daring, and to dream big. It has influenced the way I design, the way I drape, and the way I look at clothes.
You’ve dressed several B-Town celebrities. Is there anyone in particular you would like to dress?
I have been fortunate enough to dress a lot of actors — whether it is Deepika, Priyanka (Chopra), Alia, Sonam (Kapoor) or Katrina (Kaif). I would love to dress almost every woman who makes her own money and buys her own clothes. That’s my dream.
Designer Prabal Gurung says that deigning for FLOTUS Michelle Obama was monumental and a game-changer for him.
From growing up in Nepal and working with Manish Arora in Delhi to becoming one of the most popular designers in the US — does it all seem like a dream
It does, but it is something I always wanted. Fame is not something I actively sought. But I wanted to pursue my desire for designing. For me, everything was a result of that. What is a bigger dream is that I want to use the platform I have to talk about other issues, which are politically or socially relevant.
You were one of the few designers who proved in the western world that South Asian fashion is much more than just ethnic wear. How tough was it to break that perception?
I am from the east, but I didn’t want to make clothes that were ethnic. I wanted to play in the global field, and to do that, I first understood the market. I was born in Singapore, and lived in Nepal, India, UK and Australia. I then travelled the world. So, I knew that I wanted to cater to the woman who was unafraid of being glamorous and beautiful, but at the same time had substance, interest and curiosity. The challenges were similar to the ones any new designer would face. They were not based out of my ethnicity because I chose a city like New York, USA, which is a melting pot of cultures.
Actor Deepika Padukone in a Prabal Gurung gown at a press meet in Madrid, Spain.
Michelle Obama has been one of your celebrity clients. Was it an important moment for you when she wore your design?
It was monumental and a game changer for me. You can’t plan such things. You can only hope that they happen. But when they do happen, you feel euphoric.
What are your thoughts about how the Indian fashion industry has progressed?
India is big on tradition and culture and that’s the beauty of it. I hope it never loses that. It is fascinating how fashion in India, today, is the perfect blend of tradition and modernity.
Who are you supporting in the US presidential elections?
I support Hillary Clinton because she is the most qualified and the most prepared presidential candidate ever. She has been in politics for 30 years, but the fact that she happens to be a woman, her win will be a bonus. It will send out a message to the women of the world that the most impossible dream can also come true.
You also run the Shikshya Foundation Nepal that seeks to provide education to underprivileged children...
Education is the only way to freedom. The reason why I have been able to achieve things in life is because I was born in a family that could afford to send me to a good school. This foundation is a big priority for me. In the past five years, we have been able to touch more than 15,000 lives.
You’re in India for a trunk show. What prompted this decision?
I lived in India for a long time before I went to the US. So, I always wanted to come back here to sell my clothes. It was just about finding the right path and the right people who share the same vision for your product as you do. So, that’s why I decided to have this trunk show at Le Mill, Colaba.
Would you like to have a full-fledged retail store in India?
Of course, that’s a dream. As a designer who is based in the US, but whose heritage largely consists of what India stands for, I understand the women here very well. I feel what I have to offer will resonate with them.