NEW YORK • Nepalese-American designer to the A-list Prabal Gurung poured his heart onto the runway with a deeply personal New York show paying tribute to his homeland following the devastating earthquake.
His spring/summer 2016 edition, one of the highlights on day four of fashion week, opened with meditative chants from 30 barefoot monks dressed in red robes and pressing their hands together in prayer. It closed with a raw cover version of Be My Baby - a song that the Singapore-born, Nepal-raised designer said he had loved since watching hit movie Dirty Dancing (1987).
In between was a stunning show in classic Gurung style: timeless yet effortlessly modern clothes drawn from a palette of saffron, vermilion, oranges, blush, black and white in beautifully cut, floaty fabrics.
"Everything I did today was very, very personal, I kind of laid my heart out there, so we'll see," he said backstage after the show.
Watching it all were actress- singer Jennifer Hudson, reality star Kylie Jenner and the Bush twins - Jenna and Barbara - daughters of former United States president George W. Bush.
There was a mesmerising orange sequinned dress, delicate form- fitting knits in orange and yellow stripes and plenty of fringing - a key look on the New York catwalks this season. To finish, he showed beautiful sequinned evening dresses and billowing orange and yellow evening gowns with full skirts falling in soft folds.
Gurung, who dresses the likes of US First Lady Michelle Obama and Britain's Duchess of Cambridge, was almost in tears backstage as he recalled the devastating loss in the April 25 quake. The disaster killed nearly 8,900 people and reduced some 600,000 houses to rubble across the Himalayan nation.
He remembers his utter panic, desperately trying to reach his family who live in Nepal. It was an agonising wait before his sister was finally able to text.
"The minute it happened, I reached out to my friends and I was like I needed to do something. I was going insane because I felt so helpless, just to see my own identity kind of crumbling," he said.
He instantly set up a relief fund, thinking he would maybe raise US$5,000 (S$7,400) to US$10,000, but donations have climbed to more than US$1 million. "It's been a cathartic experience, I would have gone insane if I hadn't done that," he said.
The Council of Fashion Designers of America pitched in, as did fellow designer Michael Kors, and Gurung said he has been overwhelmed by their love and support.
"That's why I wanted to do this collection and pay tribute to the resilience of the Nepalese people and to show my gratitude to the fashion industry. They've saved me several times," he said.
He credits fashion as his saviour - rescuing him the first time by offering him a future when his creativity felt stifled in Nepal. "What I wanted to do was take collages of my childhood and my memories, and blend them with things that I've come to love in New York," he added.
It was not difficult to persuade the monks, who came from different monasteries including in Nepal and upstate New York, to take part.
Gurung said: "They were so encouraging, because I was sceptical as to should I do it or not, and they themselves were like, 'No you have to do it.' "