Prabal Gurung offered a dramatic runway show Saturday at New York Fashion Week starting with sharp, edgy black outfits with strong silhouettes, slashed sleeves and high-gloss patent leather, and ending with red carpet-worthy white gowns with feathers and gold lame.
Somewhere in between, he fit in blouses and dresses in a print of a steer's skull that sounds scary but was truly lovely in the spirit of a Ming dynasty porcelain pattern. The skull was a recurring theme, showing up on a beaded sweatshirt and a varsity jacket, too, but it was always a subtle statement.
"Prabal is unafraid of color and drama," said Joanna Coles, editor-in-chief of Marie Claire. "He has a sense of globalism that makes it very real and now."
Gurung, who was raised in Nepal, is a favorite of Michelle Obama's. Asked if she influenced his fall collection, he said, "I would say I didn't think about Mrs. Obama, the first lady. It's more like — and I do hope she's going to like something — but it's more her effect has tremendous positive impact on my business."
He added that the strong runway looks made a "statement" for "storytelling" purposes. "There's whole pieces far more wearable and sportswear-driven," he told reporters.
Gurung also talked about the dark-light contrasts in the collection as symbolizing "the duality of ourselves, the dark side and light side we all have." Casting brunette models in black and blondes in white, he said, "was a metaphoric message" about "the perfect harmony of those two."
Gurung also created hourglass shapes with sheer panels for the collection, putting them on models who sometimes looked more like bean poles. Some of the garments were molded to further define the silhouettes without ever making them clingy or tight.
Trousers were narrow but with boot-leg bottoms, and the most chic coats were also long and lean.
He experimented with mixed textures, offering a patent leather coat embroidered with sheared mink loops, fox fur and tiers of goat hair. On the other end of the spectrum was a white cocktail dress with a panel of gold tinsel and another of lame.
A black gown that seems destined for the red carpet featured delicate sheer tulle covered in hand-embroidered beads and crystals.
His use of gold, he said, is not about being flashy, but comes from Asian culture where gold "is more auspicious. It's more of an adorning, it's more about celebration rather than flash."
Actress Zoe Saldana sat in the front row, wearing an outfit from Gurung's spring line. Gurung in many interviews has credited Saldana and a photo that appeared of her on the cover of Women's Wear Daily in 2009 wearing one of his very early designs.
And then there's the fact that the first lady also has several Gurung pieces in her wardrobe.
"Mrs. Obama has supported Prabal and enjoys wearing his clothes because he's talented," said stylist Mary Alice Stephenson, who attended the show. "There is an incredible amount of talent here in American fashion and he's one of our stars."
AP radio correspondent Julie Walker contributed to this report
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