While many choose fash­ion as a ca­reer, Prabal Gu­rung, you might say, was cos­mi­cally ap­pointed. Schön! meets the boy from Nepal who took a child­hood cu­rios­ity and turned it into a global em­pire.

Schon! - - Truly, Madly, Deeply - Words / Evan Ross Katz Pho­tog­ra­phy / Diego In­drac­colo Fash­ion Editor / Kay Korsh Model / Noah @ Storm Man­age­ment Hair / Mark Fran­come Pain­ter for Salako us­ing Bum­ble and bum­ble Make Up / Afton Rado­ji­cic @ Stella Cre­ative Artists us­ing Cos­met­ics à la Ca

Prabal Gu­rung was born in 1979 in Sin­ga­pore, a place he cred­its with in­form­ing his pre­ci­sion. “Then when I moved to Nepal, it was chaotic, ex­u­ber­ant, crazy tex­tures, colours, na­ture.” He stud­ied at the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Fash­ion Tech­nol­ogy in In­dia, be­fore brief stints in Lon­don and Aus­tralia, fi­nally mak­ing a home base in New York City. There, at only 18 years old, he be­gan work­ing as Pro­duc­tion Man­ager for Cyn­thia Row­ley. “I wanted to know not just how to make the clothes, but how to price them,” he ex­plains. That, in brief, was just the be­gin­ning. The ‘rest’ – which we’ll get to – has in­cluded launch­ing his epony­mous brand in 2009, as well as re­ceiv­ing the cov­eted CFDA Swarovski Award for Wom­enswear in 2011.

As a dili­gent stu­dent and quick pat­tern­maker and sewer, Gu­rung was sure of his tal­ents, but his call­ing was con­firmed when in Lon­don for the first time aged 17. It was late at night, ev­ery­thing had shut, and Gu­rung had sud­denly taken a wrong path, land­ing in front of a Chanel bou­tique. “I still re­mem­ber that dress vividly,” he re­calls. “It was ivory bone coloured chif­fon; bil­low­ing. I can­not tell you how pow­er­ful that was for me. I had been think­ing, ‘I don’t want to be a doc­tor, I don’t want to be an engi­neer, what do I want to do?’ and I re­mem­ber in that mo­ment be­ing so struck by the beauty of that dress. It was a feel­ing I couldn’t ig­nore.”

Soon the teenager was work­ing for Cyn­thia Row­ley and then Donna Karan, be­fore be­ing ap­pointed De­sign Di­rec­tor at the iconic Bill Blass. He stayed with Blass for five years, hon­ing not just his skillset but de­vel­op­ing his tar­get woman, whom he de­scribes as a “think­ing man’s sex sym­bol”. He launched his own la­bel be­cause, he states: “I knew I had some­thing to say. I told my­self if I found one or two peo­ple that liked it, that was enough. It was never ‘I want to be dis­cov­ered’ or ‘I want to be the big­gest.’ For me it was ‘I hope a few peo­ple like it and I hope those peo­ple talk about it.’ The rest just hap­pened.”

Gu­rung’s de­but Spring/Sum­mer 2009 col­lec­tion re­ceived unan­i­mous praise, gain­ing the at­ten­tion of Anna Win­tour and Amer­i­can Vogue. He de­scribes its com­ple­tion – and the 21 sub­se­quent col­lec­tions – as both eu­phoric and im­mensely heart-break­ing, liken­ing it to a loss: “I al­ways say, the highs and the lows in this in­dus­try are of epic pro­por­tions. All that, you feel it alone. There’s no­body else that feels it. It hits you hard and it hits you good.”

The la­bel also launched around the same time as In­sta­gram, which quickly be­came one of fash­ion’s most in­flu­en­tial lenses. Though Gu­rung ad­mits so­cial media has played a vi­tal role for his brand, he’s quick to note its greater pit­fall: “Just be­cause a se­lect group of peo­ple were re­ally smart about us­ing [it] and lever­aged it into a busi­ness, ev­ery­one now thinks that’s the way to do it. We have cre­ated a lazy world, that is not re­ally cu­ri­ous, that is not re­ally about work­ing hard. The world we are liv­ing in now is about churn­ing out shit con­stantly. Un­less you are men­tally pre­pared to han­dle the level of stress that comes with be­ing a de­signer, run­ning your busi­ness, you won’t be able to sur­vive. It re­quires such grit to be able to do what we do.”

This grit has led to Gu­rung out­fit­ting Michelle Obama, Kate Mid­dle­ton and Oprah. He fur­ther ce­mented his ‘it’ boy sta­tus (fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of Isaac Mizrahi, Ro­darte’s Kate and Laura Mul­leavy and Proenza Schouler), by col­lab­o­rat­ing with re­tail pow­er­house Tar­get. The en­tire col­lec­tion sold out al­most com­pletely in one day (this, in 2013, when high-low col­lab­o­ra­tion era seemed to have heard its swan song). “I’d rather fail and fall hard and I’ll pick my­self up than not try at all,” Gu­rung elab­o­rates. “Any kind of col­lab­o­ra­tion I do, I want peo­ple ask­ing ‘Oh, are you sure?’ not ‘Oh, OK, yeah, makes sense.’”

Amal Clooney is now top of Gu­rung’s wish list of who to dress next. “In the world that we’re liv­ing in, where the num­ber of fol­low­ers and num­ber of ‘likes’ are cel­e­brated so much, women like her of­ten get by­passed,” he ex­plains. “It’s great to see the world’s fas­ci­na­tion with her.”

We con­clude by ask­ing a ques­tion that his idol, Oprah, asked Ri­hanna dur­ing a 2012 sit-down: “Who are you?” Un­know­ingly, Gu­rung gives the same an­swer as Ri­hanna. “Who am I? I’m a per­son that cares. Deeply. Whether it’s my work, the peo­ple that work with me, my fam­ily, my friends, or the world we live in. If I was to de­scribe my­self I would say I’m a per­son who truly, deeply feels and cares.”

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