Prabal Gurung's New Brand iMPOWER Is Putting Face Masks Front and Center

Courtesy of iMPOWER
Courtesy of iMPOWER

Following Hillary Clinton's defeat in the 2016 election, Prabal Gurung found a new purpose for his fall 2017 collection. His usual offering of beautiful clothing was accompanied by powerful t-shirts, celebrating and empowering women. In a moment of loss, Prabal found activism. That's not unlike the place we find ourselves in now — and again, Prabal is moving forward with a message to inspire his customers and fans. "We are in a critical moment right now where showing up for those around you is of the utmost importance. This means wearing a mask, speaking out against injustice and inequality, fighting for racial justice, being a concerned and active citizen, and voting in the upcoming election." Prabal Gurung told POPSUGAR when we asked him what he wants to stress most as a brand right now.

The designer, who's been at it for more than a decade, dressing the likes of Michelle Obama and countless Hollywood A-listers, has built a reputation with his event-worthy dresses and thoughtful approach to advocating for the causes close to his heart, including the LGBTQ+, women's rights, and the importance of voting. Now, he's expanding his reach with a new lifestyle brand, available exclusively at Walmart. iMPOWER, which launches today with a lineup of brightly printed masks ($14), is centered around two things Prabal cares most about: "empowerment and philanthropy." Each iMPOWER collection will raise funds to support a charitable cause aimed at addressing global crises, providing relief, and uplifting social justice and equality. "The first collection was inspired by my belief that protection should be available and accessible to all," Prabal told us. The first drop is not only a reminder that wearing masks is essential; it also supports the CDC as the brand's first donation recipient, at a time when we need it most.

Ahead of iMPOWER's debut, we spoke to Prabal about the importance of wearing a mask, what's driving this new collection, and how he's infused the ethos he's always been known for into a new brand. Read on for the full interview, then check out the debut collection right here.

POPSUGAR: How has your design ethos been infused into this new line? What about it feels similar to the brand we already know, and what about it is brand new or different?
Prabal Gurung: I always approach my designs as a storyteller. I think about what I am trying to say about the person I am designing for and how will my collections help them to share their story with the world. With iMPOWER, I am trying to start a conversation. I want the iMPOWER collections to create a sense of community and inspire dialogues. Aesthetically, I am always attracted to beautiful colors, so the designs are joyful and vibrant. At the same time, the brand ethos, which is centered around empowerment and philanthropy, has clear intention and depth.

PS: What overall feeling/vision was driving this new collection? Do trends factor in at all?
PG: I wanted to create pieces that were bold and had energy to them. The prints we chose all have a strong point of view, which we hope will arm the wearer with a sense of inner strength and purpose. I think the biggest trend right now is individualism, and I hope that our customers will feel like iMPOWER's designs inspire them to be their most authentic selves.

I think the biggest trend right now is individualism, and I hope that our customers will feel like iMPOWER's designs inspire them to be their most authentic selves.

PS: How do you envision the face mask, now an essential, as part of a stylish outfit?
PG: In my opinion there is nothing more stylish than wearing a mask to keep your community and loved ones safe and healthy. Rather than a fashion statement, wearing a mask is your way to show the world that you care.

PS: You have always used your platform to inform and empower, so what advice would he give to a young fan who's feeling the weight of the world right now?
PG: Don't be afraid to speak up for what you know is right. Your voice matters, whether you have a big platform or a few Instagram followers. The brand name iMPOWER comes from the mantra "I am powerful." It is an affirmation of one's inner strength and ability to change the world.

PS: Who are the celebrities, brands, or influencers and other designers who are keeping you inspired right now? What's keeping you optimistic?
PG: Seeing the country and the world have a real awakening and reckoning on issues like racial justice gives me hope for the future. We still have so much work to do, and we have to continue to be a part of the resistance. Watching the work of incredible activists such as Raquel Willis, Munroe Bergdorf, Ashlee Marie Preston, Kimberly Drew, Tamika D. Mallory, Patrisse Cullors, Tarana Burke, Kerry Washington, Indya Moore, and so many others is what keeps me inspired.