I dress the thinking man’s sex symbol: Prabal Gurung

Prabal Gurung's Spring Summer Collection 2011. Picture Courtesy: Kevin Sturman

New York-based red carpet’s designer du jour, Prabal Gurung, tells  that he’d love to dress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan

How does it feel to dress Hollywood for the red carpet?
It really is such an exciting moment when I see a woman, whether on the red carpet or down the street, wearing something of mine. There is almost nothing more gratifying because it means I have found some sort of audience. When a woman is slated to wear something of mine down the red carpet I always try to imagine what she will do with her hair, make-up and how she will accessorize but there really is no way to know for sure until you catch that first glimpse of her posing for the cameras.
Hailee Steinfeld was in white at the Golden Globes red carpet as was Jennifer Lawrence at the Director’s Guild Awards. Both were your creations. Is white the new red carpet favourite?
I have always incorporated quite a bit of white or ivory into each collection. It serves as the perfect canvas for those pop colours seen throughout the line. There is something so unassuming and pure about it.
Your Spring 2011 prêt collection focusses a lot on the detailing ‘on’ the dress rather than accessorizing ‘with’ the dress. Is it a conscious decision to create standalone pieces, draw focus to the dress itself than letting it shift because of heavy accessorizing?
There is something so beautiful about a dress that can stand alone and not need to be heavily accessorized. I put so much time and thought into each piece. All the draping, pinning, tucking and everything else I have focussed on, allows for this to happen. It is when a dress becomes too busy that it starts to wear the wearer rather than the other way around. Personally, that is not the style I relate to or try to obtain.
The Golden Globes’ red carpet saw ladies wearing full-sleeved gowns rather than an overdose of breasts and buttocks. Are we seeing the return of ‘modesty’ to the red carpet?
More than modesty, we’re seeing glamour at its finest. At the Globes, the ladies were channelling old Hollywood. The idea is to be balanced. If you’re showing a bit more neck, show less back. If the hemline is on the higher side, wear longer sleeves.
Women are wearing men’s clothes. Men are wearing bold prints. ‘Androgynous’ has become a part of every look-book now. The past is being recreated in bolder shoulders, bright colours and big hair. How do you see this mish-mash?
It’s common to see a cyclical evolution of styles, silhouettes, eras and moods. Time and time again, we have seen the re-emergence of the 50s, 60s, 70s and so on. I think that fashion has the ability to slowly become something bigger whether through all of the digital opportunities and platforms out there or modern society’s inevitable maturation.
How do you define ‘minimal’?
To me, ‘minimal’ is the definition of those silhouettes that make for a pure, fresh look. You can even achieve ‘minimal’ with one million intricacies. It’s about how clean a statement you make.

Name some of the trends from the last season that you wish were gone and
some trends that you feel will set the tone for 2011…
More than anything else, I want to see ladylike pieces being sent down the runway. There really is nothing worse than looks that are too tight, too short or would make a woman appear vulgar.
You are a self-confessed Bollywood buff. How do you feel about the way clothes are being designed for the big screen?
I think, it was Manish Malhotra who changed the entire landscape of the Bollywood film’s costume designs from the beautiful saris in “Chandni” to minis in “Rangeela”. There is a certain level of taste and refinement that I see emerge in Bollywood films. I think, it has a lot to do with the director as well and his commitment to investing time, energy and finances into the aesthetics of the film. A well-researched and designed costume can surely enhance a film. Karan Johar, Yash Chopra, and Sanjay Leela Bhansali are true masters.
Who is the ‘Prabal Gurung woman’?
Ever since the first season, I have defined the woman I dress for as the thinking man’s sex symbol. She is someone who is strong, intelligent, confident and is able to wear clothes that bring out the best in her.
Name one Indian woman you’d love to dress...
I would really love to dress Aishwarya Rai, among many others. Indian women are so incredibly beautiful and I often have them in mind when I design.
( Article first appeared in Calcutta Times, The Times of India, 6th Feb 2011)

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