How #DeGenderFashion Creator ALOK Got Ready For Prabal Gurung's Virtual Fashion Week
Prabal Gurung is one of the many fashion designers who decided to release his pre-fall/fall 2021 collection digitally for New York Fashion Week, and gender non-conforming writer and performer ALOK was right there in the "virtual front row." ALOK is the creator of the #DeGenderFashion movement and found it important to participate in Prabal's event, even though it wasn't in person. "I'm keeping it minimal this year: Prabal is the only [Fashion Week presentation]. As a fellow queer South Asian, I've always seen myself in Prabal's approach to fabric and silhouettes. I feel such a deep affinity and pride in his unique contribution to the fashion world," ALOK told POPSUGAR.
"It means a lot that Prabal has continually supported me and so many of my trans and gender non-conforming peers in an industry that is often so inhospitable to us."
Prabal's collection was titled "In the Mood For Love," and all of its boldness and whimsy would be empowering for anyone to see. There are touches of '80s glamour, poufy sleeves, and polka-dots. Hot pink is the color of the moment for Prabal, and the symbol is the rose, handpicked from the corner bodega store and instantly inspiring the designer as the foundation for the entire collection. There's an unwavering sense of perseverance in the lookbook images, and we see that same taste for creativity balanced with realness in ALOK's own approach to dressing. It makes sense that they were part of the "virtual front row."
"Gender non-conforming people like me have always been on the frontlines of style and fashion. Unfortunately, we are so rarely included in mainstream fashion. It means a lot that Prabal has continually supported me and so many of my trans and gender non-conforming peers in an industry that is often so inhospitable to us," ALOK said, sharing that they styled two looks for "Prabal day," working with makeup artist Leibi Carias on the beauty details.
"One look is whimsical, one look is defiant. These are two parts of me that have been conjoined this pandemic: on the one hand feeling this deep, ethereal reflection. On the other, this restless, rogue desire to roam free," ALOK explained. Ahead, hear more from ALOK about their experience and relationship with fashion, see both Prabal looks they created, and then take in some bright spots from Prabal's pre-fall/fall 2021 love letter to New York, just like ALOK was sure to do just as passionately from home.
ALOK wanted their first look to "embody a private oasis, a secret garden: an homage to the interior, intimate reflective work so many of us have had to do during quarantine."
POPSUGAR: What's it like to participate in Fashion Week virtually, if you had to summarize it in a few short words?
ALOK: A sign of the times.
PS: How do you approach styling an outfit for Fashion Week?
ALOK: I begin every outfit with an idea or a feeling. Styling a look is about materializing an abstract concept. That's why I love fashion – it makes ideas real.
PS: Were you sent any clothing from Prabal Gurung to wear for the "virtual front row"?
ALOK: I was invited to be a part of the "virtual front row" as a commitment to maintaining the spirit and community of the show, even though it can't happen in person. Prabal's team sent over a couple of garments from past seasons and I made selects.
PS: What sort of interaction will you have with the rest of the guests on the day of Prabal's virtual presentation?
ALOK: Look, I love giving compliments. In a cruel world, being kind is so punk. I can't wait to flood all my friends with love. Dream of what it will be like when we're reunited.
ALOK describes their second look as "something with more grit and stamina: representative of how we can and will trudge through this, cultivate the kind of conviction that ensures there is no going back."
PS: Prabal's new collection encourages self-expression. That is something you value and make known every day, especially with your #DeGenderFashion movement. How do your outfits today speak to that idea?
ALOK: I believe fashion should be a celebration of beauty, not binary. Dividing silhouettes, articles of clothing, colors, and prints on gender lines is actually contrary to fashion. My looks today are a celebration of wearing whatever the hell you want, regardless what other people think you should. It felt fitting to have my quarantine roommate photograph these outside. So often, self-expression is only permissible on a runway or a TV show, but I think it's important to bring it everywhere we go.
"I believe fashion should be a celebration of beauty, not binary. Dividing silhouettes, articles of clothing, colors, and prints on gender lines is actually contrary to fashion."
PS: What would you say is a Fashion Week outfit essential pre-pandemic, and what is a Fashion Week outfit essential now, even if it's just something you wear at home?
ALOK: For me, fashion has always been less about what you wear, and more about how you wear it. I say curiosity was and continues to be essential. Curiosity is the anecdote to stagnancy. It helps us continually move in new and exciting directions.
PS: In your opinion, what does it mean to dress with courage?
ALOK: It means to prioritize your joy over their shame. It means to dress for yourself, not other people's ideas of what you should look like.
PS: How has your own approach to styling a look changed throughout the course of the pandemic?
ALOK: There's so much pain, anguish, and hopelessness around. Style gives me a semblance of control. I can't necessarily control what's happening in the world, but I can put together an outfit. It helps me return to myself. The ritual of it all is calming. Also, it's about creating excitement; bursts of creativity in all the monotony.
PS: Why is it so important for designers to be making political statements through their collections right now?
ALOK: It's always been important. But, I think it's important that we move to a place where representing plus-size bodies, disabled bodies, dark skin bodies, and gender non-conforming bodies isn't seen as "political," just "honest."
PS: Prabal's show centers around the idea of a love letter to New York. Why do you feel that theme is most meaningful to the fashion industry right now, and how can the industry continue to stay in touch with this positive outlook?
"Prabal's hope is contagious: a reminder that creativity can and will thrive despite everything."
ALOK: One of my favorite thinkers Gloria Anzaldúa says, "Nothing happens in the 'real' world unless it first happens in the images in our heads." Imagination and image creation actually can expand our horizon of what we think of as possible. It's not just that images and art represent reality, they create it. Prabal's hope is contagious: a reminder that creativity can and will thrive despite everything.
PS: Prabal focuses on the symbol of the rose in this new collection. What does the rose mean to you, and how have you visualized the rose in your own fashion sphere before?
ALOK: Prabal writes about encountering roses at the local bodega and remembering what matters and how precious New York City is. Roses are timeless and familiar, and their ubiquity helps us return to ourselves. I think we need that right now: comfort.
PS: Which is your favorite look from Prabal's new pre-fall/fall 2021 collection and why does it speak to you?
ALOK: The final pink corset gown for sure! It's so princess and so New York. It speaks to the regality of the every day. I just imagine wearing it on the subway. One big, bold flower. A gift to the whole city, and the world.