Prabal Gurung, a Nepali-American designer, has been a vocal supporter of inclusion and diversity since her first show in 2009. Atlanta shooting And an upswing in Anti-asian violence, He spoke to The New York Times about his own experiences and what he has to do with it.
How are you battling?
Watching a video of a 65-year-old woman brutally assaulted is sad not only for me but also for my friends and people in my community. We all are very concerned for our loved ones. My mother walks daily morning and evening. He is 75 years old. A few weeks ago, I bought a blond wig for him, and I said, “You know, just wear it when you go out, wear a hat, wear glasses.” He tried on it. But the next day she came to my place, and she was like: “I’m not going to wear this. Just buy me a big, strong cane. That is the reality of it.
Is that why you were the organizer of Black and Asian Solidarity march With other designers and workers in March?
We did not know how many people were going to show, but thousands and thousands of people showed race and gender: LGBTQ friends, Latin friends, black friends, Asian friends, white friends. What we recognize is that to turn this particular moment into a movement, we have to come up with all marginalized groups and our white counterparts.
You know, when the epidemic started, I had an option to leave the city. I decided to live in New York and actually participate in all these protests and marches because I knew that, personally, I could create a noise. Collectively, I can be part of a revolution. I knew how the other felt. I knew what it was like to turn the pages of a magazine and never saw anyone who likes you.
Have you felt discriminated against during your career in fashion?
While I have really been embraced and supported by the industry, we as designers are very token. We are like, “Oh, a wave of Asian designers.“Then there is a wave of black designers, a wave of women designers. We never say a wave of white designers. We are never considered designers on our own. So that kind of inherent bias, that kind of microgridation, we face it all the time.
Did you experience this when you were trying to get financial support for your business?
For my 10-year anniversary I was at a potential investors meeting, and one asked, “What is a brand?” I said: “The America I am seeing is very colorful. The dinner table I am looking at is very colorful. It is diverse. This is what America promised me. That’s why I came here, because I was disappointed at home. “And he tells me,” Well, you don’t look American. ” I looked at him, and I was like, “You mean I don’t look white?”
“It’s fine,” I said. “I have been doing business in the US for 20 years. I am a citizen. I make over 90 percent of my clothes in New York City. I am actively involved for social reasons. I have contributed to my taxes. “
Needless to say, I did not get the investment. I am still an independent brand. I will never forget how small he made me feel.
How do people see your work?
Once I did a collection in Nepal inspired by Mustang. It is a very beautiful place. There were some big gongs. The fashion director from a retail platform came and said: “If I want to see that collection, I can see a history channel. We don’t want anything cold from you. We want beautiful. “I did not fight back at that time. I was like, “I need to save my business.” That’s why I kept quiet.
But we really have to ask ourselves: The things we consider beautiful, the things we think are chic, like food, the music that we listen to, where is it coming from? This is a very Eurocentric, colonial approach, and we have to end it.
Is this part of your responsibility?
I remember that right after my first collection, when I was wearing the clothes of many celebrities, I called my mother back home to Nepal. My mother said, “That’s great.” And then he said: “You know whose clothes you should wear? Michelle Obama. He stands for something. “A year later, Michelle Obama wore one of my dresses, and I called my mother. And then she goes: “I am happy for you. congratulation. But remember, it is no longer yours. This success is no longer yours. It is for all those who feel marginalized in the way you did. So now it is up to you what you are going to do with it. “
- a The edge of hate and violence The early days of the coronovirus epidemic began last spring against Asian-Americans around the US. Community leaders say the rhetoric was sparked by the rhetoric of former President Trump, who called the coronavirus a “China virus”.
- In New York, a wave of xenophobia and violence The epidemic has been complicated by the economic collapse, which has dealt a severe blow to New York’s Asian-American communities. Many community leaders say that racist attacks Being ignored by the authorities.
- In January, A. Thailand’s 84-year-old man violently slapped On the ground in San Francisco, he died as a result two days later in a hospital. The attack, captured on video, is a rally crying.
- Eight people, including six women of Asian descent, were killed. Atlanta Massage Parlor Shooting On 16 March. The motives of the suspects are being investigated, but Asian communities across the United States are on alert due to an increase in attacks against Asian-Americans last year.
- On March 30, the New York Police Department Was looking for For a man who kicked a 65-year-old woman, pressurized her and made anti-Asian statements.
Part of what you are trying to do with your work is to educate people about the nuances of various Asian cultures, right?
Are asian-american Fastest Growing Immigrant Group In the US electoral college with roots around the world. We are diverse. I look East Asian, don’t you? But I am from Southeast Asia. I sit between brown Asians and other Asians. The wealth disparity between the richest Asian Americans and the poor is excessive. I think perhaps the largest of any ethnic group in this country. Despite this, there is a myth of the model’s minority, wealthy wealthy Asians. This is why “parasites” are important, why “minarets” are important. Give us a platform so that we can tell our stories.
Doesn’t this stereotyping make you angry?
I am making mistakes with people because it can start a dialogue that leads to a solution. I refuse to cancel people unless something is really harmful.
Fashion is one of the toughest and most difficult industries, but it is also an industry that can reward you in the most spectacular, incredible way. And this is the only industry where on a runway in 10 minutes we can really change the story of culture. This is the strength of fashion.
I am a living example of this coming from a country like Nepal, where no one believed I could be a designer. To live that dream and to be able to stage this. It has been truly incredible.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.