CFDA Board Member Prabal Gurung was recently honored at the 2022 American Image Awards as the Designer of the Year. Taking the stage to claim his award, Prabal delivered a heartwarming speech touching on his Nepalese background, the struggles and adversity he has faced in the industry, and the progressive strides he hopes will be taken in America in the future.
"I feel very fortunate that I am part of this industry, making a living doing what I love. As arduous and challenging as it may be, especially as a small independent, self-financed brand, I still consider myself lucky that I found my passion early on and live my version of that dream.
BUT, it's also an industry which is not devoid of many issues and problems. Yes, progress is being made, but it still remains an industry that often rewards and celebrates only a particular type and Idea of beauty, people, race, community etc. It's an industry that is deeply impacted, influenced and dictated by the colonial lens and tastes. An industry that wakes up to the cultural movement hoping it will be a moment so they can go back to how things were…
In an industry where anyone who looks like me or has any resemblance to any of my friends from the marginalized and minority/bipoc community is still a quota, a box to tick, a decorative display for the front of the house to let the culture and world know that the industry is "woke" while the board room and the decision making tables remain blindingly white.
It is here where my Americanness has been questioned time and again. Like the time with a potential investor, when I expressed my desire to present the real version of Americana - a colorful version mixed with different shapes, sizes, gender identities etc., questioned point-blank: “you don't look American, so how will you define America?” This despite of being an American citizen, paying my dues, taxes, employing people and making more than 90% of my clothes here in New York.
These are not woe is me. It really isn’t. These are some of the highlights from the reels of my real-life... But I am not an anomaly. Ask any creatives of colour and ask them what they go through… and the stories you will hear perhaps will make you empathize and hopefully truly understand the trauma attached to the fight against the invisibility of our existence. Yes, despite all our work, we still have to fight for our visibility and validation. We not only have to prove that we are equally good or better because we bring a diverse story that brings so much colour to all our lives, but we also have to constantly fight for our Americanness… in this industry, in this country.
Therefore, this American Image Award handed to me - an immigrant, a gay man of colour... well, the irony of it all is not lost on me.
I am sharing this with all of you because, despite all the challenges, I am grateful. Immensely. For this industry and to you all. For giving me this time and space tonight.
As a creative person, it's very easy to get carried away - to receive an award like this and think I am the shit.
It feels good, don't get me wrong. and It will be a great conversation when I go out on my date (which reminds me I still need to respond to that DM). So thank you for giving me this opportunity to well, flex haha.
Because life without impossible dreams… well it is not worth it and realizing the impossible dream with your passion and grit? Well, now, what could be more American than that.
So, to the American Image Awards, my heartfelt gratitude."