Prabal Gurung is a designer whose work has always been inextricably linked to politics. In 2019—at the height of Donald Trump’s poisonous anti-immigrant rhetoric—he used his 10th anniversary collection to make a defiant statement, sending models down the runway in sashes that read ‘WHO GETS TO BE AMERICAN?’ For spring summer ‘22, politics was front and centre once again, with Gurung presenting a paean to the gender nonbinary movement, questioning ‘Who gets to be a girl?’ Politics was also sitting front row, in the form of Kathy Hochul, New York City’s first female governor, and the replacement of Andrew Cuomo, who was ousted following an internal investigation of sexual harassment of female employees.
The collection experimented with dualities. The opening look—a bubble-hemmed pink gingham mini dress—was roughed up with a cascading, oversized trench coat. Sharp suiting was relaxed with sorbet shades of lemon and pistachio. Evening wear in the form of short, sexy cocktail dresses were dressed down with sportswear-style shoes. Pieces flirted with fashion’s neo-Noughties comeback—long-sleeved, body-hugging dresses in tattoo-style graphic prints—while still staying true to the pared-back American glamour that made Prabal Gurung a household name and red carpet favourite.
But above all, the collection was a celebration of gender expression and experimentation. Male presenting models wore corsets and magenta eye makeup, exaggerated floral suiting, and asymmetric silk blouses. The notion that Gurung’s pieces should fall neatly into a ‘womenswear’ or ‘menswear’ binary was refreshingly moot. “A girl or a woman, whoever chooses to identify as one… is the most unnerving for patriarchy,” Gurung said in the show’s press notes, later revealing in a post-show interview that he’d been inspired by protests for trans rights while designing the collection. “Over the summer, going to the protests, the trans rally, going to places like Happy Fun Hideaway in Brooklyn, which is a non-binary space… I just wanted to create a collection that could show to the world what beauty can look like.”