For his fall and winter 2019 men’s and women’s runway collection presented here Sunday night, Prabal Gurung explored hippie chic by way of Kathmandu. The resulting clothes were a madcap mash-up of colors, patterns and fabrications that wasn’t for the faint of heart – and might be too much for all but the most outsize personality to pull off.
The specific inspiration, Gurung explained in his run-of-show program, was Jhochhen Street in Kathmandu, “known to some as ‘Freak Street,’ [it was] the birthplace of the hippie movement, where westerners uprooted themselves to embark on a journey.” Gurung went on to paint a picture of globe-trotting nomads who engage in a cultural exchange of ideas — picking up something new at each stop along the way, “the confluence of these splendid cultures weav[ing] together harmoniously speaking with color and texture to forge unity and friendship.”
It was a conceit that gave Gurung free rein to throw all kinds of things in the fashion blender – a bright pink diamond-pattern-quilted duvet coat with exaggerated ruby red notch lapels opened the show, for example, and things seemed to get only more incongruent from there: a turquoise nylon down-filled puffer stole accessorized a saffron and turquoise tie-dye cashmere knit turtleneck paired with a turquoise silk bias-cut skirt; dresses and men’s silk tunics and (on trend) wide-leg pants were served up in a riot of patchwork prints and an ostrich-feather jacket quivered and quaked like a box of crayons come to life.
It wasn’t just color either; houndstooth checks and lace came together in a single shirt, and a hand-tailored wool flannel pinstripe jacket (with the pinstripes on the right side of the jacket oriented vertically, the left side horizontally) was paired with pink and gold hand-loomed fleur-de-lis-patterned brocade cargo pants.
On the whole, the fabrics looked sumptuous, the exquisite workmanship was obvious — even from afar – and the collection’s relaxed-leg silhouettes and puffed-up, insulated outerwear pieces keyed into the weeks prevailing runway trends. But the enthusiastic embrace of color, a strategy that usually pays dividends for the designer, felt like overkill this time around.
One dress, though, deserves to be singled out: an inky velvet drop-waist, V-neck gown whose only embellishment was a two-tone, hand-draped shoulder ruffle. Elegant and restrained, it was breathtakingly beautiful and almost certainly destined not for Kathmandu’s Freak Street but one of Hollywood’s red carpets.
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