Rain could not dampen the spirits at Prabal Gurung‘s recent outdoor runway show at The Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island, a setting significant for its symbolism of freedom of speech. With clear umbrellas in hand, models showcased Gurung’s newest collection, a beautiful blend of Eastern and Western influences, under the misty, overcast sky.
Prabal Gurung, a designer celebrated for infusing his Nepalese heritage into his collections, took a different approach for his Spring/Summer 2024 collection by focusing on the concept of “West meets East” rather than the traditional “East meets West” narrative. This shift allowed Gurung to explore new territories, drawing inspiration from old family photographs of his aunts immigrating to America, and his grandmother’s floral wallpaper. He explained that the collection aimed to celebrate the blend of cultures, without the fear of cultural appropriation.
Gurung shared his thoughts before the show, stating, “My goal with this collection is we live in this day and age where we’re curious about each other’s cultures, but afraid of cultural appropriation. I was like, let me find a way to tell a story where we can see each other and not be afraid, so there’s a mix of the silhouettes and the shapes from where I grew up in India and Nepal, and a mix of the ease and pragmatism of the West.”
This delicate balance was evident in the designs, which featured Eastern silhouettes and design methods but incorporated a Western twist. For example, a cotton pleated blouse was draped like a sari, paired with loose-fitting Dhoti pants and a drop waist, Dhoti-style jumpsuit. Floral prints inspired by his grandmother’s house adorned a multicolored matching organza set and a Western-inspired sherwani jacket worn with chiffon Dhoti pants.
Notably, Gurung also introduced linen into his collection for the first time, treating the fabric with the same care and attention as more luxurious materials. This approach served as a valuable design lesson for the designer, who reflected on the importance of questioning his choices. “I always check myself in what is good taste and what is bad taste,” he said. “I always want to make sure, where is it informed from? Where is the source? I’m constantly questioning myself, so hopefully with this collection, it comes through.”
Indeed, this introspection is reflected in the collection, which carefully navigates the fine line between appreciation and appropriation. By blending the influences of his upbringing in India and Nepal with the practicality of Western design, Gurung creates a harmonious fusion that celebrates the beauty of both worlds.
©Photo: Prabal Gurung