Indian & South Asian Modern & Contemporary Art

Prabal Gurung on Art, Style and His Nepalese Roots

By Alexandra Owens

N EW YORK – Raised in Nepal and a graduate of the National Institute of Fashion Technology in New Delhi, India, New York City-based fashion designer Prabal Gurung continues to be deeply inspired by his cultural heritage. Much like his diverse (and impressive) list of international muses – including Michelle Obama, Kate Middleton, Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan, Sarah Jessica Parker, Huma Abedin, Alia Bhatt and Cate Blanchett – Gurung explains he is "an amalgamation of the places I was raised and had wonderful experiences in – Singapore, Nepal, London, Australia, Mumbai and New York." "My designs reflect this global outlook," he says. Ahead of Sotheby's 14 March Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art sale, we spoke with him about incorporating Nepalese culture in his collections, why the crossover between art and fashion is so important today and his favourite pieces in Sotheby's upcoming auction.


How would you describe your aesthetic as a designer?
My design aesthetic is a re-imagination of glamour, with a unique bite or edge. I design for a modern, intelligent, strong and assured woman, who is poised and beautiful inside and out. Every piece, whether it is a high quality t-shirt, luxurious hand-sewn knit, dramatic gown or sharp suit, is designed with this muse in mind.

You’ve spoken about how your South Asian roots have continued to be an inspiration. What parts of Nepalese and Indian culture are reflected in your designs in particular?
Nepal is part of my roots, and I’ve spent a great deal of time at school and working in India, so both countries have inevitably helped shape the designer and person I am today. The specific inspiration for each collection changes season to season, but it’s more often than not some form of art or architecture. Regardless, my connection to and love for Nepal is always embedded in my collections. We also produce the majority of our knitwear in Nepal. Providing opportunity to the country that has shaped me is a part of our brand ethos. We also recently designed recycled metal jewellery and hardware in Nepal by partnering with local artisans for the Spring runway. It is important to us to highlight these crafts.


What are your thoughts on the conversation between art and fashion?
Art has always been a great source of inspiration for me. My recent collections have all drawn on artists – Taryn Simmons, William Kentridge, Mark Rothko and Laxman Shreshta among them. Art provides perspective and provokes one to engage in vibrant conversations about the crossover of art and fashion. Given our current climate, I believe that now more than ever, it is important for people to have a creative outlet for expression and dialogue, regardless of the medium.

Is there a period or style of art that you’re especially inspired by right now?
I find contemporary art to be incredibly inspiring. I appreciate the works of artists such as Cecily Brown, Elizabeth Peyton, Sterling Ruby, Tracey Emin and Christopher Wool. I also recently saw a powerful photo exhibit showcasing the works of Pieter Hugo as he took portraits of children in Rwanda and South Africa. It evokes a strong visceral emotion, and has a renewed relevance even with the photos having been taken over twenty years back.

To see Gurung's picks from Sotheby's upcoming Modern & Contemporary South Asian Art auction, click below.


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