Gurung gets up early most mornings to go to the gym and he likes spending downtime on the weekends in the most casual of clothes, hanging out with friends.
He always walks around with wide eyes, he says, waiting to see that shape, print or color that will send him to his notebook. Right now, the wall of his studio is littered in his vision of next spring, which has a little more color to it than the very black-white-and-red graphic palette he used for fall.
Gurung has a new office in the Garment District, part of the incubator program from the Council of Fashion Designers of America, which arranged for a collective, affordable space for up-and-coming industry players who couldn’t support a full showroom on their own. Gurung also is a finalist of the Vogue Fashion Fund competition, which could land him a $200,000 grant.
“What’s special about him is that you’ve got this wise, talented head on top of fairly young shoulders,” says Vogue magazine fashion news director Mark Holgate. “He really knows how to make clothes and he makes them beautifully.”
Holgate says Gurung seems almost like a holdover from a previous generation _ he could imagine him in conversation about fine tailoring with the late Blass or Pauline Trigere _ yet Gurung also has a distinctly downtown, hip viewpoint.
“He can dress younger and older women. That cross-generational appeal that he has, I think that’s important,” Holgate says.
One of Holgate’s favorite looks in the fall collection was a camel-and-black coat with rounded, sculptured shoulders that mimic, in the most luxurious fashion, the jackets worn by the Hell’s Angels bikers that hang out across the street from Gurung’s apartment.
“There’s something different about his collection. It’s not a rehash and he doesn’t follow in the footsteps of anyone,” says Sasha Iglehart, deputy fashion director at Glamour. “He has his own direction and a very recognizable look.”
“Part of me hesitates to say he’s the `next great thing,’ but the trajectory seems unstoppable,” she says.
Iglehart zeros in on the cocktail dresses, which she says are refined and sophisticated yet sexy.
A red, asymmetrical dress worn by actress Zoe Saldana on the red carpet while she was promoting “Star Trek” was a turning point in his career. A photo appeared on the cover of Women’s Wear Daily _ and that’s when the phone started ringing, Gurung says.
On this day, he can’t immediately produce a copy of the photo, but he says, “We have it here somewhere. OK, we have it everywhere.”
“There’s such a feeling of satisfaction when something you imagined turned into something real,” he adds.
There were no words, however, to describe his feelings when Mrs. Obama wore his red boatneck gown to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, he says. “She is totally the woman I describe when I talk about what an American woman is. She’s strong, she’s feminine, she stands for something _ and she’s changed what American women wear.”
Mrs. Obama also changed the course of his life. “If she hadn’t worn that gown,” he says, “I’d just be another `young designer.’”
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