Designer Prabal Gurung Proves Being Pro-Immigrant is In Fashion

The glamourous world of New York City fashion may not seem like fertile ground for a bold political statement about immigration, but designer Prabal Gurung chose to use the runway at New York Fashion week to remind audiences that clothes can convey a powerful message about the world we live in. And with the help of a diverse array of models, powerful music, and ensembles that put a fresh spin on American icons, the Singapore-born designer had a clarion message for those gathered at his Spring / Summer 2020 show: there is no simple definition of what makes an American.

Gurung is no stranger to using fashion as a springboard for conviction, particularly in the years following the election of President Trump. In 2017, he used his show to illustrate his fervent support for feminism, sending models down the runway in shirts bearing quotes from noted feminist Gloria Steinem. This year, amid headlines about immigrant children locked in detention facilities and border walls being built, Gurung decided to use his own experiences as an immigrant to imagine an inclusive world where the American dream applies to everyone willing to work hard. As he explained to Instyle, “In the last few years, incited by the divisive rhetoric of the Trump administration, I’ve considered the many faces of America and how we should seek to redefine it. I recall sitting in a business meeting spiritedly challenging this very notion, and being met with a pointed ‘well you don’t look American, so how can you define what America is?'”

Inspired by the “melting pot” ideal of a nation made stronger by diversity, Gurung used his clothes as a medium to put a whimsical, fresh spin on traditional symbols of Americana. Classic symbols of western culture, such as raw denim and cowboy boots, were sent down the runway with unexpected touches of elegance, like strands of pearls, daring the audience to rethink who can wear these iconic pieces. He employed a large cast of more than 60 models, spanning a range of ages and sizes, who strutted down the runway for the finale wearing sashes emblazoned with the question “Who gets to be an American?” At one point during the show, a melancholy cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “America” played while models displayed tie dyed dresses. It harkened back to the optimistic era of the 1960’s, when millions of young people protested for peace, change, and equality. That generation is now aging – but Gurung clearly hopes that a new wave of young people will continue to fight for the diversity that makes our country so great. [See Prabal Gurung’s 10th Anniversary Show Made a Powerful Statement About Immigration by Alyssa Hardy, InStyle, 09.Sep.2019.]


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