Prabal Gurung's Ideas About Body Diversity Will Make You Say "Halle-Effin'-Lujah"
The second that I sat down to chat with designer Prabal Gurung, he told me he liked my dress. "You look so cute," he said, and I could tell he meant it. Throughout the rest of our conversation, Prabal continued to make me feel good, but not by giving me compliments. We were talking about his second collection for Lane Bryant, which launches on Sept. 25, is offered in sizes 14-28, and ranges in price from $38 to $278. The clothes are also inspired by Paris, and on Candice Huffine, who models them in the lookbook, they are very chic. I can confirm this to be true since I touched and admired every high-quality item (and lusted over one faux fur coat!) before I met Prabal.
Prabal is a high-fashion designer who just dressed Elisabeth Moss for her Emmys win and who notoriously celebrated diversity on his Fall 2017 runway with inspiring graphic t-shirts. He recognizes that women come in all different shapes and that they do not simply fall into size buckets. Hello?! Can more Prabals exist in the world?
While I receive statistics in my inbox after every Fashion Week that tell me the runways are becoming more diverse, I refuse to recognize that they are diverse enough — especially when it comes to offering something wearable to curvy women. Prabal agrees, and it feels good to know that we're on the same page. When Prabal said to me, "The industry has shifted, but not enough to open a bottle of champagne," I thought, "Hell. Yes." and took a sip of my water.
Read on for a look at Prabal's new line for Lane Bryant and learn why he thinks there is still plenty of room for the industry to grow.
The One Item Prabal Thought to Design First Is His Idea of the Most Universally Flattering Coat
"The faux fur coat can be any size; it could be in anyone's wardrobe. You could be the girl who doesn't want to wear anything besides tights and a t-shirt underneath, and you'd look fabulous. Or you could get all dressed up underneath, and it could take you anywhere. Women who are buying my $8,000 coats, they see it and say, 'Oh my god, how much is it?!' and that's why I wanted to create this collection. As you know, there are certain days where you want a really fitted coat, but most days you have on so many layers. It's not easy to look chic when you're bulking up. So I wanted to make something warm and functional that was still fashionable and fabulous."
Prabal Would Only Design For Lane Bryant Collection Under One Condition
"When I did my collection for the first time, I said to Lane Bryant, 'The only way that I will do this is if it's shot by a brilliant photographer, Inez & Vinoodh; I want Ashley [Graham]; and I want the pages of Vogue to tell this story, because I want this woman to open the pages of Vogue and be like, 'OK, the world is changing.' It was important."
The General Misconception About Designing For a Plus-Size Woman
"What's missing in the industry is an overall perception about what a plus-size woman wants. It always feels like an afterthought. Everything [for the plus-size customer] is designed in either all black or a bright shade and super tight. It's not that. Every woman goes through days when she wants to wear tight clothes and days when she doesn't want to at all. Even though she's looking great, maybe she doesn't feel great, or maybe she feels fabulous. What's lacking is a modern, sophisticated daily wardrobe for a woman, and that's what I wanted this collection to be. It doesn't need to be screaming; it needs to feel like a confident, assured statement of 'This is who I am.'"
Prabal Thinks There's a Reason His Peers Aren't Designing Plus Sizes
"There's a stigma attached to 'plus size' and what it means. When you say 'plus size,' some people think it's not healthy or that it signifies obesity, which is not true. These are women who eat healthy, work out, but unless they actively starve themselves, their body is just not a size 0. Everyone's body is different. The opposite ends of the spectrum are anorexia and obesity, but there's the whole area in the middle, and 'plus' does not mean unhealthy.
"For years and years, we've had this misconception about what beauty is supposed to be. It's been ruled by decision-makers who refuse to change, but now with technology the decision is in the hands of the people. They are the ones demanding it. Unless people demand it, change is not going to happen. The other thing is that in every size, every body shape is different. There will always be challenges. Our industry is driven by a few people with courage and a lot of followers."
The Type of Woman Prabal Gurung Wants to Dress
"All the notoriety I have and publicity I have is because of the celebrities that I dress — the powerful women that I dress. For the longest time, the idea of feminism started with a woman not embracing her feminine side, but needing to look like a man. It's no longer that. That's why my hero is Gloria Steinem, who came to my show this season. She looks fabulous; she has incredible style . . . even when she was young and she used to go to galas to raise money for her foundation. She did it well.
"The dialogue needs to shift. Just because a woman looks pretty doesn't mean she's bleak or submissive or unsure of herself. From day one, I've been offering up to size 22. The first thing I did was for Oprah [Winfrey] on the cover of her magazine in 2009. I dress women of different shapes and sizes. We just dressed Elisabeth Moss for her Emmys win. I want to be able to celebrate women of different genres. A beautiful woman is a beautiful woman, but a woman with a brain is insanely lethal. That's what I'm interested in."
Prabal Doesn’t Think the Industry Has Shifted Enough
"It's shifted a bit, but it hasn't shifted enough that we can open up a bottle of champagne. We're not ready yet. I want to see designers embracing inclusivity, including European designers, who are notorious for lack of inclusivity and diversity. We don't talk about it often enough, and we don't call them out enough, but it's like . . . this is ridiculous. I would like to see my peers and other designers be able to embrace it. Not just one model, but two or three different models on the runway, plus these kind of collaborations. I can't believe it's 2017 and we still need to talk about this. It really breaks my heart, and it's simply because people lack courage and vision. What's going to happen? Your business is going to fail? You'll bounce back!"
Prabal Thinks These Designers Are Capable of Delving Into Plus Territory
"The designers who I love and who I admire who can truly represent this on the runway are Proenza Schouler, Joseph Altuzarra, Jason Wu, Narciso Rodriguez, and I would like to see Calvin Klein. Now Raf [Simons] is there — and he is the forefront of the fashion conversation, so I would like for him to shift the conversation because he can. Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta — these are people real women look up to, and they're also my favorite designers, and I love what they're doing. I would also love for Celine, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga, and Dior to introduce the concept. Imagine a world we live in where all the designers offer those beautiful sizes. Imagine those runways. It would be so powerful."