I’ve gone this long believing that Prabal Gurung was British or Canadian, but he’s not – he’s a naturalized American of Nepalese descent. He’s a well-known and well-respected fashion designer who balances high fashion lines with mass-market lines too. He’s done collections for Target, and for Lane Bryant. He was actually one of the first major designers to do a collection for Lane Bryant, which (if you’re not familiar) is a plus-sized women’s clothing chain. Gurung points out in a new interview that he’s always offered plus-sized clothing in his own high-fashion line, and he talks about how his committment to dress women of every size has led to some… really awful comments.
Why he did the Lane Bryant collection: “I’ve been offering a size 22 since I started, but for some reason — [perhaps] because retailers weren’t buying it or something — it got lost in translation. What I realized was that the changes I wanted to see, in the industry and the world, just didn’t happen by me doing a show with a few plus size models or a diverse group of models; it needed to continue, and I felt like if lending my voice could move the conversation forward, I want to be part of it.”
How people treat his plus-sized collections: “We haven’t even done anything” in the high fashion community. The designer admitted that there was “a lot of snickering” when he first announced his collaboration, relaying the story of an acquaintance who approached him at an art opening to ask, “Why are you designing for fat people?” Gurung looks shocked by the question even now. “She saw my reaction and she said, ‘Oh no, I meant it as a joke!” I said to her, ‘Clearly, you know it’s not funny,’” he recalls. “I said to her, words are very powerful, they impact and affect lives. The majority of American women haven’t had a voice, haven’t felt like they belong in our world, and I wanted to be sure that they do. It’s people like you who make statements like these — there’s a reason I wanted to do this.”
Changing the industry: “Our industry is very, very slow at change, and fearful, we are operated by fear; there are a handful of people who operate with absolute courage and guts, but the majority of us, we don’t.”
I honestly believe that the snotty woman who said “Why are you designing for fat people?” was probably someone in the industry, because that’s how most fashion people think. Tim Gunn has talked about this a lot too – that designers refuse to see the plus-sized market as a huge untapped demographic hungry for stylish designs. It’s why Melissa McCarthy started her own line, and it’s why a handful of designers are slowly breaking into the market. Anyway, good for Gurung. He sounds like a really lovely guy.
Photos courtesy of WENN.