Fusing Fashion and Politics: How Prabal Gurung Defined Who Gets to be American

Who gets to be American?

 Designer Prabal Gurung brought this topical question to the center of attention during his tenth anniversary runway show at New York Fashion Week.

 This idea was sparked during  a business meeting where Gurung was sharing his ideas for making American clothing more diverse. In the midst of his conversation, someone in the meeting asked “How can you define American; you don’t even look American?”

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In response Prabal Gurung fused fashion and politics at NYFW in his Spring/Summer 2020 collection. To conclude the show, Gurung had all the models wear  a red, blue and white pageant-like sashe alluding to the American flag. Across the side of the sashes it said “Who gets to be American?”

The models cast were diverse in terms of race, size and gender. The one thing that united them was the  homogeneous sashe they wore. This acted as a metaphor representing how you don’t have to look the same to be American but you all share the label and identity that falls under the term American. 

The theme of Gurung’s show was much more than retribution against a co-worker dismissing Gurung not looking “American.” Gurung has values he wants to get across through his platform as a designer. Gurung chose to change his location from Hudson Yards to NYFW  because Stephan Ross, the owner of Hudson Yard, hosted a fundraiser with President Donald Trump. Gurung denounced Yards via Twitter saying that working with Trump is “appalling”, “shocking” and “fostering an unsafe culture”.

Many other designers wouldn’t have done this. For example, Stefano and Domenico Dolce who seem to support the Trump family despite any political controversy. 

Arguably, Gurung’s actions correlate perfectly with today’s political climate. For some, Trump’s wall rhetoric has furthered the sentiment that minorities will never be fully accepted as American. Gurung is challenging that notion and presenting how America flourishes from different interweaving cultures merging together and creating individuals that don’t have to be the same but are equally important.

Prabal Gurung NYFW tenth anniversary show

Prabal Gurung NYFW tenth anniversary show

This is not the first time Gurung has spoken out  politically in fashion. He is very critical of the American government and doesn’t believe that immigration laws, LGBTQ rights and women’s rights are adequate. Through fashion , Gurung speaks for those without a voice and  provides a platform for people to embrace other cultures. 

The beauty of America lies in the different cultures that make it up. Fashion is political and designers now have the platform to shape how we view society. Ultimately, Gurung show is projecting his vision of America which is unique, multicultural, diverse and refreshing. •

By: Amber Weir

Graphics by: Izellah Wang