>> In front of a sold-out crowd last night at FIT's Katie Murphy Amphitheatre, Prabal Gurung, fresh off a trip to visit his family in Nepal, fielded questions ranging from the status of his love life — "I'm single" — to whether he would ever consider designing for a major fashion house — "Yes."
Gurung, who has been in business for just about a year, producing three collections under his namesake label thus far, remarks of his quickly-found success:
"I'm as talented as any other designers, I'm not more talented or anything else. But there are various other factors that came into where I am today . . . There are stories like, let's say Proenza [Schouler], they went to school, graduated, and they were discovered — they're very talented — stories like Alex Wang . . . it happens once every few years. I came from the school of thought [where] I believe in paying your dues, learning your craft, knowing what it takes to make a good collection. I paid my dues, so for me, when people say it's an instant success, I'm always like, no, it's been ten-plus years of hard work."
He credits Oprah for bringing him to New York »
And humility places high on his list: "If you're thinking of getting into design for fame, I think you shouldn't. Personally, for me, fame is the result of hard work and honestly, good PR. That's all it is. When fame becomes your ultimate goal, you'll be disappointed."
Gurung launched his collection, which is accentuated by "a very graphic quality to it, a 'contained madness' I always say, colorblocking, very architectural details," in Fall 2009, despite the recessionary environment, because that specific season "was always something that I thought about a long time back. I've always been a planner: 5-year, 10-year, I had always dreamt about it."
He had saved what money he could while working as design director Bill Blass, enough to make his first collection for Spring 2009. As for the accompanying inaugural presentation: "I got the space for free, my stylist was for free, models were for free, hair and makeup were for free, every production aspect was for free, all my friends in the industry who had a full-time job came on board and helped me."
He now has a full-time team of six people — "and lots of interns" — working on his label. "All these people who are working here with me, there's not a single person who came on board with salary. They just believed in me, they left their jobs, and they were like, 'You know what? We're going to give you six months or a year or however long it takes for us to get paid, we are on board.' Every single one of them. If I'm here, talking to you and doing collections, it's because of their absolute support."
He also is in debt to Oprah — but not just for wearing one of his designs on the cover of her magazine. She was also the impetus which brought him from Nepal to New York:
"I was thinking of launching my own line in India, and I was kind of questioning my decision. I'd been so busy, so I wasn't watching TV that much, but I went home and turned on the TV and Oprah Winfrey was on. Until then, I had no idea who she was, but it was one of those shows, I still remember, about living your dreams and following your dreams. It struck a chord. I watched several of those, and that's when it hit me, and I was thinking to myself, 'You know, I want to give it a shot in New York' — I'd never been to America — 'And see where it takes me.'"
He maintains that he's still at the beginning of the ride: "This is just the beginning of my career, I have a long, long way to go . . . I would love to explore more categories, expand the business." That includes a range with more accessible price points: "Definitely in the plan; as a design company, if you want to be a legitimate business and make money, that's where it is. Definitely, down the line, it's one of my biggest goals and dreams."