BEING THE FIRST PRABAL GURUNG
Prabal Gurung had his inspirations, but it was never his purpose in life to follow anyone’s footsteps. Everyone is born different, but many of us tend to focus on molding ourselves into someone we admire, or someone the society deems a “success”. He very well could have been as big as his inspirations, but that was not what he was aiming for. Prabal was different and he knew it better than anyone else. Regardless, he wasn’t meant to be the next big thing. He was destined to become someone much greater, he was destined to become Prabal Gurung.
Considering the fact that his dream of becoming a fashion designer completely contradicted the norm that benchmarked doctors and engineers as the ultimate occupation, Prabal was headed for a lot of skepticism. He was bullied for being different, and his inclination towards arts and design was never taken well by the all-boys crowd at St. Xavier’s School. But on a positive note, this just might have prepared him well to power through all the adversities of life. No wonder, today he sits high in the global fashion industry as the darling of the sensational New York fashion scene, rubbing shoulders with the A-listers of Hollywood. It is safe to say that right now there aren’t many Nepalese people who can boast of such achievements.
Born in Singapore, Prabal was brought up in Kathmandu but he began his professional design career in India where he spent eight years. He then moved to New York to continue his studies at Parsons The New School for Design. After graduating, Prabal spent two years with Cynthia Rowley’s design and production teams. Soon after, he was appointed design director at the iconic Bill Blass. For many pursuant in the fashion field, this would have been considered an apex point in their careers. No one would have thought any less of him if he had decided to ride it out till his retirement. Prabal however, had bigger plans. He resigned the post he held for five years and launched his own collection – prabal gurung.
After that there was no looking back and it’s been a continuous ride uphill. It is no small achievement when your brand is the choice of a variety of powerful women from the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Rachel Weisz, Anne Hathaway, Demi Moore, Jennifer Lawrence and Sarah Jessica Parker to Michelle Obama and The Duchess of Cambridge. Needless to say, Prabal Gurung’s career has already reached dizzying heights of success. Although he remains firmly rooted to his Nepali ancestry, there is no denying that India and more so New York has had a huge role in his accomplishments.
TODAY HE SITS HIGH IN THE GLOBAL FASHION INDUSTRY AS THE DARLING OF THE SENSATIONAL NEW YORK FASHION SCENE, RUBBING SHOULDERS WITH THE A-LISTERS OF HOLLYWOOD. IT IS SAFE TO SAY THAT RIGHT NOW THERE AREN’T MANY NEPALESE PEOPLE WHO CAN BOAST OF SUCH ACHIEVEMENTS.
“Being a global citizen, I have my roots in Nepal. However, I don’t want to take away the contributions that India has on me. I know the hidden nuances in our culture about that aspect. When I started designing in Nepal, everybody was laughing as they termed design as a “bored housewives’ hobby”. I grew up watching Hindi movies and listening to Hindi music as much as I listen to Nepali music. It has shaped my aesthetics and my love for music and it allowed me to dream. It was in India that I found out that there is a legitimate career to be made and when I launched my collection, India was the first to embrace me, so I don’t want to take away that from me. And finally you can say that I found myself in New York. America gave me an opportunity to be myself, live my dream and in complete honesty, a story like mine wouldn’t have been possible anywhere else in the world. I’ve lived in America for 14 years and accepting the citizenship has been emotional, natural progression in terms of business and profession.”
Family plays an important role in every child’s development and it was no different in Prabal’s case. Prabal highly credits his mother to be his guiding source of inspiration. Considering the conservative mentality of the time period and society he grew up in, the career path he chose wasn’t going to be easy to follow. Almost everyone wanted him to conform to the basics and be normal. But his mother encouraged him through every step, and rather embraced him by convincing him he was perfect just the way he was. With the support of his mother and the rest of his family, there wasn’t much the world could do to stop his ascent. Prabal did not have everything handed to him; he had to work harder than the rest. Had he quit sketching, concentrated more on improving his grades like his teachers encouraged him to, his initials would have probably never acknowledged a second glance.
With over a decade of hard work in the profession, he is now in a position where he excels at what he does and is a prominent figure in the fashion industry. Now a major source of pride for the entire country, Prabal has been doing his part to give back to the country as well. Utilizing the platform he has achieved, he along with his sister, brother and like-minded friends founded the “Sikshya Foundation Nepal” to give back to the society and education.
“I realized that the platform I had and the attention that I was getting, it wasn’t fair to keep it to myself. I wanted to turn that to something I always was avid about. The satisfaction I get out of this is amazing. It’s been such a gratifying, fulfilling, positive and spiritual feeling. I’m very proud of the fact that we’ve been able to do this.”
There is no doubt that his resilience, passion and personality played a huge role in his success. There are only a handful of Nepalese people who we can look up to as having highly succeeded by following their passion and Prabal Gurung simply personifies the agenda. Not being the one to let herd mentality stir his thoughts, Prabal never let his humble origins restrain his boundless dreams.
ALTHOUGH HE REMAINS FIRMLY ROOTED TO HIS NEPALI ANCESTRY, THERE IS NO DENYING THAT INDIA AND MORE SO NEW YORK HAS HAD A HUGE ROLE IN HIS ACCOMPLISHMENTS.
“I’ve never felt less than. We should remember that we have a rich culture and heritage and we are no less than the rest of the world. The fact that I am from Nepal gave me the identity and great advantage as the first designer in New York from Nepal. We have to change our mindset. Its not a question of bigger or lesser but its just people are different. We need to embrace our different qualities and that’s when we realize our strengths and that will take us places.”
We love reveling whenever our fellow countrymen succeed in putting Nepal on the global map, and Prabal is currently the epitome of that success on a global scale. He has also opened doors to people who dare to think out of the box, and he now serves as a fine inspiration to succeed by following one’s passion. A firm believer of hard work and determination, this basically sums up his attitude towards success-
“I feel honored that I am able to inspire so many young passionate
people. You need to believe that there’s enough room for everyone and you need to define your own success. Always aspire to become the next YOU, not someone else. I firmly believe that necessity is the mother of all inventions. It is time for us to figure out who we are and what we stand for. We need to get out of the typical Nepali mentality and stop pitying ourselves that we’re born in a country that has been on the receiving end for grants from other countries. We should strive to be able to compete with the rest of the world. I wish we could simply be supportive of each other and enjoy everyone’s success by following our dreams and encouraging and complementing each other. The minute you start thinking and be truly happy for someone’s success, success finds you!”
UTILIZING THE PLATFORM HE HAS ACHIEVED, HE ALONG WITH HIS SISTER, BROTHER AND LIKE-MINDED FRIENDS FOUNDED THE “SIKSHYA FOUNDATION NEPAL” TO GIVE BACK TO THE SOCIETY AND EDUCATION.
SOME QUICK Q&A’s
Best place to eat in Nepal?
– My mom’s kitchen
Which is the first album you remember buying?
– Umm… I’m pretty sure it was ‘Like a Virgin’ by Madonna
What do you drive?
– I don’t drive.
Which is your favorite workout?
– I would say a cardio and weight circuit.
Your favorite drink?
– Vodka, soda with lots of lemon and a dash of lime.
What do you always tend to lose?
– Bad memories.
Something you don’t leave home without.
– My phone.
Sweet or Savory?
I WISH WE COULD SIMPLY BE SUPPORTIVE OF EACH OTHER AND ENJOY EVERYONE’S SUCCESS BY FOLLOWING OUR DREAMS AND ENCOURAGING AND COMPLEMENTING EACH OTHER. THE MINUTE YOU START THINKING AND BE TRULY HAPPY FOR SOMEONE’S SUCCESS, SUCCESS FINDS YOU!
What is your favorite rude word?
– I don’t know, I guess you have to ask other people.
What’s the most illegal thing you’ve ever done?
– I was caught cheating in school.
Do you have any phobias?
– I’m terrified of heights.
Any celebrities that you’ve met and couldn’t believe that you were actually meeting them?
– Oprah Winfrey at the start of my career. She’s been a source of inspiration for me. I was asked to make something for her from my first collection for the cover of O magazine (Oprah Winfrey Magazine), which she was sharing with Ellen DeGeneres. She loved it and it was an incredible moment for me. And also the first lady, Michelle Obama- who’s been a great supporter of new American designers and has put American fashion on a global map. I’ve had the chance to thank her for wearing my design on behalf of the entire nation.
Words: TNM Team
Photos: Shashank Pradhan