The designer tells us all about his new collection and living life in colour.
“The easiest thing to do is stay neutral,” says New York-based Nepalese designer Prabal Gurung. “Especially when it comes to design, where we think neutral palettes are so chic. That’s what we’ve been fed — but who tells us that?”
On the surface, Gurung is talking about his new bright and cheery limited-edition home decor collection (his first ever), made in collaboration with Etsy. But, like with everything the celeb favourite (he can count Michelle Obama, Kate Middleton and Anne Hathaway as fans) does, there are so many more layers. “Colour can evoke joy, love, resistance and strength. We are stronger in colour,” he says. “To anyone who is afraid of bringing colour into their lives, I would say: Have courage. Have heart. Because when you let colour into your world, you are opening a door to a new experience, a new story. And when you open up your heart that way, your empathy levels go up a notch, and you will understand and see the world much differently and in a far more interesting way.”
A simple way to do that is through the aforementioned collab, which is available on Etsy as of today. Inspired by his many travels, Gurung, also a long-time advocate for greater diversity and inclusion, partnered with other Etsy sellers to create a line that celebrates wanderlust and joy — and is capable of transforming any space. Starting at about $36, customers will be able to shop neon taper candles, fun graphic planters and delicate pastel dishware. FASHION caught up with Gurung to talk about the collection, a love of travel and the power of memories.
How did you settle on the wanderlust theme?
I’ve travelled all my life. I was born in Singapore, have lived in Nepal, India, London, Australia, and have continued to travel. I always say that I consider myself a curious global Nomad — I go to a lot of different places to learn about history, culture and discover new things so that I can make my own particular personal history of that particular moment. It brings me joy, and I think travelling truly makes a person empathetic — not direct from an airport to a hotel, but real travel can really open up your mind, and your heart and make you realize that we all are more similar than different.
And so I wanted this collection to have that idea of wanderlust and curiosity, and absolute joy and understanding of each other. I enjoy hosting, and when I think about my dinner table, the people who join me are usually a diverse cast of individuals — they’ll all bring something special to the table, from a point of view, a travel story, kind of a magical energy by the virtue of who they are. [These dinner parties are] always colourful, interesting, fun and full of laughter and really substantive conversations. We all join together over like a beautiful meal, sharing tales of our personal journeys and creating memories. I wanted to create something that would be a part of those intimate moments. Some might consider these pieces inanimate objects without any life, but every time you look at these pieces, I want them to evoke memories.
Home decor is new for you. Why is now the right moment to branch out?
I’ve always been interested in it — I’ve always decorated my own houses, from finding vintage furniture, dishes and stuff I really love. And, don’t forget, I grew up in Nepal and India, where the craftsmanship and [work of] artisans are incredibly, incredibly elevated and the talent has been handed down generation after generation. I wanted to do this collection at this particular moment because in this past year, what we’ve realized is that our homes are not just the places where we sleep and relax. Home is where we rejuvenate, where we bring people together — in challenging or happy times — and create history and moments. I want what I create to be a part of that. Even with my ready-to-wear, that’s what I do, I think about how what I create will become part of a women’s wardrobe and part of a story.
To share this experience and collaborate with these other [Etsy] artisans has been really cathartic and exciting, and I wanted that same [feeling] for the customers also. My mother has always told me: “A lot of people can cook food, but can they really cook it with love?” When food is cooked with love, you can feel that it’s nourishing. And that’s how I was brought up — everything was intentional and with purpose. That’s what this collection is; it tells my story and I hope that it will help others create their own.
Speaking of the other Etsy artisans you worked with, what was the collaboration process like?
It was a lot of conversation back and forth, but also more of an understanding — they understand my aesthetic and I have a respect for what they do. We had to find common ground so that we could tell the same story, which is why selecting the artisans that we’d work with was very important. I wanted to know their history, what they do and why they do it. I loved their passion. I thought it was going to be difficult, but it was really easy, because we all chose to work together and developed this mutual respect. Now, [I get to] highlight the work that they do and share my mic with them.
What are some of the personal memories that the collection evokes for you?
The colour-washed dishes — they almost looked tie-dyed, but it’s a hand wash — are really beautiful. They remind me of being back in Nepal. They have this hand-held quality of human touch; when you look at them see someone working on them, which I really, really love. And there are also floral dishes, which were inspired by my 10-year anniversary collection, which was really special to me because I had created the prints on my own. That collection has so many memories attached to it; it was attached to my identity and who I am in this country and it was a celebration of my American dream, to be completely honest. I wanted to bring that into people’s homes too.