Prabal Gurung wants to ‘preserve the elegant woman’ in his Spring/Summer 2014 show. His intention to safeguard what he describes as an ‘endangered species’ was clear – literally – from the offset of the show, where the models stood encased within transparent curtains. Gurung may have taken inspiration from iconically elegant eras for this collection, but this show is not a carbon copy of the past. The eternally stylish woman has been captured, but by no means confined.
The collection may have a definite air of the fifties about it, but this is retro reworked: pencil skirts and cat-eye glasses remain, but in novel hues and textures. Colour-wise, we see pastels on acid and ditsy prints on steroids: some looks were drenched head-to-toe in mint and lilac whereas others were splattered with indulgent, graphic flower prints. An impressive technical success was the integration of PVC into traditional tailoring: the collection boasts plastic tweed jackets and silk-screened plastic skirts aplenty. Perhaps not the most functional of looks, but they certainly made a dynamic impression.
The influence of Raf Simons is definitely present in the collection, but Gurung manages to hold his own. Simons’ work at Dior springs first to mind as a similarity – both collections include mid-century silhouettes with exciting pops of colour – but interestingly, Gurung’s Spring offerings bear a resemblance to Simons’ last collection at Jil Sander too: the yellow collar and cuffs on a Prabal Gurung coat echo the peekaboo-bright lining of Jil Sander’s Autumn/Winter 2012 outerwear. Evidence of Gurung’s originality, however, is apparent in the smaller details in this collection, from the clashing lip colours and slicked-back hair to the sharp chunks of Chris Habana jewellery: all fresh and modern accompaniments that successfully banish any lingering Mad Men clichés.
This Spring, Gurung has struck just the right note between delicate and dramatic, feminine and fierce. Nothing presented was completely innovative or brand-new, but this worked in Gurung’s favour: the show was an expert mingling of the past with the present, a representation of eras old and new. Prabal Gurung’s ‘elegant woman’ is not a mannequin behind a shop window or a statue in a glass case: she is a living, breathing reinvention. She is preserved, but pliant.