Apex of inspiration

Apex of inspiration
Prabal Gurung, fashion designer.

Mention the region of Mustang in Nepal and images of towering mountains, remote cliffside caves, rugged men on horseback, and women carrying baskets past rows of prayer wheels come to mind.

The rich images provide the inspiration for A-list fashion designer Prabal Gurung's Fall 2014 collection, which will open the Audi Fashion Festival (AFF).

This is the first time he is showing his Fall 2014 collection in Singapore and Asia, a coup for AFF organisers and a fitting homecoming for the Singapore-born, Nepalraised and New York-based fashion designer.

"My journey from Singapore to Nepal to New York has been a long one and I've ended up far from where I started out," says Gurung, adding that Singapore is a "poignant place for me, and I don't have the chance to visit often enough".

He adds: "To be able to share my designs with an area of the world that is so close to home is a huge honour and privilege."

He is the youngest of three children, who were all born here. His family relocated to Nepal where his parents and sister live. His brother lives in India.

Gurung is the darling of New York's sartorial scene, and his name is mentioned in the same breath as other Asian A-listers like Alexander Wang and Jason Wu.

He not only dresses the who's who in entertainment such as Jennifer Lawrence and Cate Blanchett but political elites too.

He is one of Mrs Michelle Obama's favourite designers, and she has worn his creations on more than one occasion. The Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton is another star client: She wore a Gurung purple-and-white shift during her 2012 visit to Singapore with Prince William.

Asked how he wants women to feel when they wear his clothes, he says: "I design clothes for women who look for an intelligent and artistic luxury, and above all I want them to feel empowered and confident wearing my designs."

While clothing the power women "lends a lot to international success, what is so fantastic is that I'm able to see my designs come to life on the women I'm so inspired by", he says.

Next up: He would love to be the clothier of choice to Bollywood movie stars and Asian leading ladies including Fan Bingbing, Zhou Xun and Shu Qi.

Gurung is inspired by anything from the music he listens to, the people he meets, books and articles he reads to the street art around the city.

Gurung's rise has been described by the fashion press as meteoric and heady: He headlined fashion reports and won awards such as the Ecco Domani Fashion Fund Award - a nod to innovators in the style circle - within just a year of his label launch in 2009.

After beginning his design career in New Delhi, he moved to New York to study at the famed Parsons The New School for Design and he cut his teeth interning for Donna Karan in the late 1990s, fashion magazine Vogue states on its online source, Voguepedia.

Upon graduating, he spent two years with fashion designer Cynthia Rowley's design and production teams before joining Bill Blass as design director, a post he held for five years until he left to launch his own collection, Prabal Gurung.

Gurung told Women's Wear Daily in 2009 on the cusp of launching his career that he hoped to start his business "really small, very humbly and modestly" and that he had "no delusional grandeur".

By all accounts, he has happily proven himself wrong.

This article was published on May 14 in The Straits Times.

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