“Now you understand / Just why my head’s not bowed / I don’t shout or jump about / Or have to talk real loud / When you see me passing / It ought to make you proud / I say, It’s in the click of my heels / The bend of my hair/ The palm of my hand / The need for my care / ‘Cause I’m a woman / Phenomenally / Phenomenal woman, That’s me.” – Maya Angelou, Phenomenal Woman
What does it mean to be beautiful and a feminist? For many women, it means being aware of the assumption that your value begins and ends with your external facade; it means understanding the gross but widespread belief that a beautiful face means an empty mind. For Spring/Summer 2017, Prabal Gurung aligns his aesthetic vision with feminist philosophy and holds up the pioneering activist Gloria Steinem as the influence behind his creations.
At Prabal Gurung, you don’t have to sacrifice one ounce of femininity in order to fulfill the message of feminism.
Even at the age of 80, Steinem is undeniably beautiful, and her looks have played a large role in shaping her status as a feminist icon. She once went undercover as a Playboy Bunny to expose the exploitative nature of that environment, and she often used her beauty and fantastic sense of style to reflect and challenge what is expected of women in society. For Steinem, dressing up and wearing makeup had everything to do with serving the self and building confidence from within and little to do with appealing to the male gaze. Gurung supports this notion; to him the fullest expression of feminism is to delight in femininity. In the face of the gender discrimination women around the world experience on a daily basis, to delight in femininity is its own act of rebellion. If the feminist theme of Gurung’s Spring/Summer 2017 collection was lost on audience members, he brought it back around by closing the show with Maya Angelou’s emboldening spoken-word poem Phenomenal Woman.
Movement was one of the most alluring aspects of his collection, with each look breezing down the runway in ways that provoked notice.
Gurung’s particular magic comes from his ability to weave an inspiring tale into truly dazzling works of art, so it comes as little surprise that his feminist celebration would take the form of sublimely draped robes, gorgeous silky dresses, and other beautiful celebrations of the female body. His spectacular line-up launched with a series of oversized sweaters that slouched off of one shoulder, each delicately embroidered with blossoms. They appeared again in lavender variety, decorated with tiny sprays of marabou feathers and paired with handkerchief-hemmed skirts that whipped about the legs as the models flounced down the runway. Some skirts were slashed to ribbons, while goddess gowns were fitted with immense pleated sleeves that floated around the body like angel wings. Movement was one of the most alluring aspects of his collection, with each look breezing down the runway in ways that provoked notice.
While the rest of the industry has been consumed with the problem of whether or not to show in-season, “see now, buy now” collections, Gurung stuck to a trans-seasonal model that proffered both breezy dresses and fur outerwear. Both commercial viability and artistic authenticity held court on his runway, supported by sporty athleisure silhouettes, boxy T-shirts, relaxed tuxedo blazers, and a truly desirable selection of silk gowns. At Prabal Gurung, you don’t have to sacrifice one ounce of femininity in order to fulfill the message of feminism.