Suddenly Prabal

By Wilkinson, Isabel | Newsweek, February 8, 2013 | Go to article overview
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Suddenly Prabal

Wilkinson, Isabel, Newsweek

Byline: Isabel Wilkinson

With an upcoming Target collection and a Hollywood following, Prabal Gurung is hitting his stride.

Four years ago, you might not have heard the name Prabal Gurung, much less known how to pronounce it. But now the Nepalese designer is on the brink of becoming a household name. On February 10, Gurung will be the latest designer in a long line of fashion stars to release a collaboration with Target, putting out more than 80 pieces--ruffled neon dresses, playful printed shorts and blazers, bright wedge sandals--ranging in price from $12.99 to $199.99.

It's a collection, as he describes it, inspired by a woman's journey through love. "To me, there's nothing more beautiful than love," Gurung says. "Whether you have it, whether you want it, whether you lose it."

As Fashion Week opens in New York, the young designer (who is in his 30s but doesn't like to give his exact age) has the schedule of a seasoned industry professional: appearances to promote the Target collection (including a giant carnival-themed party), the show for his own label on February 9, and the debut of his latest collection for ICB, a lower-priced Japanese line that relaunched in the U.S. for fall 2012.

It's indicative of how Gurung is shifting into the role of an experienced designer and away from his newcomer status. Until now he's been regarded as a fashion-world darling--a talented young thing buoyed toward stardom with the help of A-list fans such as Oprah Winfrey, Kate Middleton, and Michelle Obama. But the Target collection promises to introduce his clothes to a whole new clientele--and to pave the way for an even bigger business.

Gurung burst onto the scene early in 2009, after five years as the design director at Bill Blass, where he landed after attending Parsons School of Design and stints at Cynthia Rowley and Donna Karan. Working for Blass, he honed his tailoring skills, and he eventually broke off to start his namesake label (with pieces that retail, on the lower end, for around $1,500) at almost the exact moment the global economy was tanking. But the fashion world instantly took notice of his skills: a red silk dress from that first collection wound up on the cover of Women's Wear Daily--a big coup for any new designer.

At first, money was scarce. Gurung was largely self-funded--and to this day says he hasn't taken investment money--but he immediately sold pieces from his first collection to four retailers, which gave him the backing he needed to continue.

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