NYFW: PRABAL GURUNG F/W 2016

Prabal Gurung F'W 2016
Prabal Gurung F'W 2016

There was a moment this evening, about 30 minutes before his show was scheduled to start, when Prabal Gurung did something I’ve never seen a designer do. He took his own phone and signed on to Periscope, Twitter’s live-streaming application, and gave a quick tour of the backstage area. Understand, we see behind the scene pictures all the time. Models themselves are often responsible for those shots, but so are key sponsors such as MAC and Pantene or Aveda and Smashbox. We get those pictures for almost every show. This was different, though. This was the designer himself, not some PR intern, taking us through, introducing us to the team, giving us his own insight into the show that was about to happen. He showed the mood board and made a point of emphasizing a plaque that had Lord Byron’s poem, She Walks In Beauty, at the center. He was friendly, a bit self-deprecating, and humorously clumsy with the phone.

If all of that helped to make Prabal and his clothes more real, then it was a success, for what he was wanting us to feel with this fall/winter collection was a sense of magical realism. By inserting himself so dominantly into the pre-show chaos, he made the experience all the more real not only for the audience sitting in the Arc theater, but the thousands watching online. Gurung has one of the largest online followings of any major designer and they were making their presence known all over social media long before the show started.

How did that magical realism play out on the runway? With a lot of white. It was difficult for me to keep my mind from wandering to the wonderful campaign we could create for this line just using the various white and off-white ensembles. The coats, especially, seem fit for someplace magical, perhaps Narnia with its snow. The fur-lined hoods were  spacious and well-cut. Fasteners were different and attractive. Sleeves were slightly tapered, but not restrictive around the wrists.

Dresses were a good blend of the magical and the real as well. Organza skirts paired with crocheted sweaters that were asymmetrical and loose were some of the most imaginative pieces we’ve seen from the Kathmandu-raised designer. He made very good use of leather, with one layered skirt flowing so well at first glance I thought it was cotton. His use of fur (we’re going to assume it was faux) was careful, weighing down the hems on some pieces, providing warmth and comfort for others.

One of the touches I really like was how he played with creative buttoning on some of the skirts and dresses. This is a bit difficult to describe, but rather than just a straight slit up one leg or another, Prabal goes up a ways, then makes a 90° cut over so that a whole panel falls away from the leg. He then puts buttons on one side of the cut, and button loops on the other. The visual effect is indeed magical.

Wrapping up all the magical reality are two wonderfully striking gowns, one in black, the other off-white. Make your choice: good or evil. Both are stunning with trains that I can just imagine billowing across a snowy field, or through a dark wood.

She walks in beauty, like the night
   Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
   Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
   Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

Prabal Gurung gives women plenty of reason to create their own fantasies with his clothes, but they never lose their practicality. This is sure to be a popular collection. One does best to watch his website for pieces are typically released there before they hit the stores. Be watching!

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