Prabal Gurung made models wear sindoor at New York Fashion Week. It has the Internet divided.

Dristi Sharma
Dristi SharmaFeb 14, 2023 | 14:41

Prabal Gurung made models wear sindoor at New York Fashion Week. It has the Internet divided.

Models were wearing hues of Sindoor like saffron, burgundy and dusty pinks, white, and obviously red. Photo: dailyO

Fashion weeks, be it New York or Paris, often see designers bring their most creative or most controversial game on the ramp. Singapore-born Nepali-American fashion designer Prabal Gurung has grabbed quite the attention with his debut at the New York Fashion Week. Reason? He made models sashay down the ramp wearing sindoor.


Prabal Gurung showcased his new line for Fall/Winter 2023 on Friday, February 10. His creation was a tribute to his roots and his homeland, Nepal. He did so by making high fashion meet Buddhism.

  • Gurung installed a mirrored square runway, reflecting an opulent blue light, for the models to walk. The idea behind doing so was focusing on the Buddhist concept of "anichya", or impermanence.
Photo: The show, which was presented at the main branch of the New York Public Library, had a mirrored square runway/REUTERS
In Nepal, we talk about it all the time, what is present and how soon it can go. And there's actually an optimism to that, especially during these challenging times. 
- Prabal Gurung told AP
  • Gurung used the butterfly motifs on waist shaper belts trailing long sashes, and as accents on choli blouses. The collection was a dialogue between western and eastern modes of dressing. 
  • His dresses were mostly 'asymmetrical', which challenged the idea of Harmony.
Photo: Model Wearing Prabal Gurung's asymmetrical dress/ Instgaram/Prabalgurung

And the star of his show: the Sindoor

Models wore sindoor in various colours, from saffron, burgundy and dusty pinks, to white and even black; and obviously red. The colour of the sindoor was in sync with the colour of the outfit the model was wearing.

Here are some photos: 

The sindoor is the symbol of purity in Nepali culture. It is seen as an auspicious part of the religious and cultural rituals of Nepal, especially in Hindu families. It symbolises good luck, bravery, and auspiciousness. 

A trip back home to connect with his roots

To turn this idea into reality on the ramp, Gurung said he visited his homeland Nepal for a 10-day silent retreat at the suggestion of his mother. 

I wanted to go back home to Nepal simply because, you know, that's where my spiritual connection and reconnection is. 
- Prabal Gurung told Reuters 

What was the audience's reaction?

While Gurung's collection and the sindoor received a lot of appreciation for taking Nepali culture to the New York ramp, it received mixed reactions from people online.


For some, it was more of a 'stunt' or cultural appropriation. 

Check out some of the reactions: 

Cultural appropriation. Couple of years later it might be sold as some white brand aesthetic product while attention-deprived Hindu women celebrate this in the comments.
- The Twitter account, Team Sundays
Wow! Would literally love to see a derogation behind the vermilion. Is this really a runway thing? The vermilion is something that's really sacred in Hindu tradition... more than it being a fashion or a style.
- From Twitter

The big picture

Accusations of cultural appropriation have bothered art for a long time, and Prabal Gurung seems to be the latest victim of the same. However, the counter argument is that the designer himself is a Nepali, and he paying a tribute to his own Nepali roots hardly comprise cultural appropriation.

What do you think? Was Prabal Gurung just paying a tribute to his roots or does this deserve the cultural-appropriation criticism? Let us know in the comments. 

Last updated: February 14, 2023 | 18:17
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