This weekend, Prabal Gurung unveiled his jewellery collection for Spring Summer 2017, handmade in Nepal using recycled metal. The beautiful sculptural forms are inspired by the work of Taryn Simon and William Kentridge and they are all made using local craftspeople, providing work and a luxury outlet for their unique artistry.
Nepal is never far from Prabal Gurung’s thoughts. It’s where he grew up and the country that he loves. And he’s found some really smart ways of working with his fellow countrymen to give a helping hand - particularly since last year’s earthquake that hit the country killing over 8,000 people.
In 2011, he helped set up the Shikshya Foundation to provide education for underprivileged children. There are currently over 60 children in the programme. As part of this project, he has collaborated with local craftspeople for several seasons, most notably on his cashmere knitwear.
The designer spent some time in Nepal over the summer. He is the latest to collaborate with the ‘buy one, give one’ shoe brand TOMS, with a capsule collection inspired by the country’s wildlife and everyday prints and patterns. As part of the research for the collection, Gurung took the TOMS team on a trip to see his homeland. The shoes are a vibrant mix of prints in graphic black, white and red. We particularly love the snow leopard print Del Rey sneakers and the suede and faux hair boots which we will be wearing as soon as the weather cools down (we can’t wait!).
TOMS x Prabal Gurung collection
“I couldn’t help but do something related to Nepal,” said Gurung. “I thought about the little streets where my friends and I used to go and get inspired by the colours and textures. These memories were things that my dreams were built on.”
For every TOMS x Prabal Gurung product purchased, £5 will go to support The Shikshya Foundation. The foundation is dedicated to providing education to underprivileged children and more recently, helping to assist in the aid of all relief efforts in Nepal.
Q: How did the collaboration with TOMS come about?
A: I have a friend who does a lot of work to help reform healthcare in Nepal. And he had connected me with the TOMS team to explore a potential partnership. It was great timing for both brands and this is what came of it!
Q: Describe the trip you took to Nepal. Where did you go and who did you see there? Who went and what were they expecting to see? What surprised them?
A: The trip to Nepal was terrific. It was my first time back in almost two years and to see what strides we have made through the foundation was incredible to witness. SSF just celebrated our five-year anniversary – so much was done and we have so much more to come. It was great taking the TOMS team through the streets I know so well and sharing my story with them. They were also able to see firsthand what inspired the collection. We also met with Sewa US Medical Director in Kathmandu to learn more about the TOMS Sight Giving programme.
Q: Can you talk me through the inspiration behind each of the four shoes?
A: You can see how the prints are very reminiscent of those seen when you go to Patan. The Newari women wear Haku Patasi, which is a similar black, white and red color palette. And I always love to offer graphic appeal with a timelessness and I feel this collection does just that.
TOMS x Prabal Gurung Black/Red Fair Isle shoes
Q: You were born in Singapore but moved to Nepal. Can you tell us about the move there?
A: I moved to Nepal with my parents, brother and sister after only a few years spent in Singapore. I went to a British Catholic school while there and soon after, I decided to pursue a career in fashion.
Q: Can you tell us about your work with the Shikshya Foundation Nepal? What do they do and how do you help them?
A: SFN started with the goal of bringing education to the children of Nepal. Education is a big part of the financial, social and emotional empowerment for the people. When the earthquake struck we were also able to help with the relief efforts by working with our partners over there.
Q: Do you think that people really do care about the stories behind the clothes, shoes and accessories they buy?
A: In this day and age, yes. Everything is so transparent in this digital world and customers care more because of that. They want to know the backstory and the message behind a partnership, a brand and a piece of clothing.
Q: Do you have craftspeople in Nepal you work with for your collections?
A: Yes. We work with a factory over there for the production of our knitwear. They have been wonderful to work with and the cashmere is of such great quality. We’re also working with artisans for jewellery for the upcoming spring collection. It’s all handmade in Nepal.
Q: Has this collaboration inspired you to work more in this way, finding ways to give back through your work?
A: Being from Nepal will always find its way into the work I do – that will never change. But a partner like TOMS helps strengthen the awareness on a global scale and we were able to build on this together. It has been incredible to say the least.
Text by Tamsin Blanchard