Updated: Thursday, 22 May 2014 07:45 | By Denise Ngo

There should be space for graffiti in Singapore: Prabal Gurung

Graffiti for street art, that is. The Singapore-born Nepalese-American designer, who opened for the Audi Fashion Festival last week, shares his thoughts on innovation, the competition between Asian designers, and the difference between street art and vandalism.


prabal gurung

Based on how readily Singaporeans claim Prabal Gurung as their own, you’d think that the Nepalese-American designer had grown up hovering over Chinatown seamstresses and lugging home bolts of fabric from Arab Street. But no. Prabal, who opened the Audi Fashion Festival last week with his AW2014 collection, told us that it was his first time back in Singapore since birth.
 
“I was really excited because I’ve been meaning to come back to Singapore,” he said, when we met him backstage after the opening show last Wednesday. “I wanted to come back with my body of work and to be able to share it and show the place where I was born what I’ve achieved, so it was really incredible.”
Despite dressing the likes of Michelle Obama and the Duchess of Cambridge, Prabal’s uniform was deceptively pedestrian: white t-shirt, charcoal-coloured pants, and chunky black sneakers. His backstage refreshment? A large cup of bubble milk tea.
 
“How many of those have you had this week?” we asked.
 
“Oh, like twenty.”
 
We began by asking him about New York, where he attended the Parsons School of Design and experienced a breakthrough in his career. Singapore received a taste of the Himalayas last week, as the collection he showed for AFF was inspired by the Mustang region in Nepal. But is there anything he would like Singapore to experience from New York?
 
“I would – gently – make the government and its people open to the idea of street art,” Prabal said, pausing as if to gauge the appropriateness of his suggestion. “I don’t condone, and I’m not for vandalism at all, but I think there is a freedom of art that’s extremely important for a city to have. In order for it to have its soul, it’s important for art to thrive.”

prabal gurung (© Audi Fashion Festival)


When we brought up the recent story about the five youths who spray-painted vulgarities on an HDB rooftop in Toa Payoh, Prabal was quick to reiterate that he sees a difference between their work and the work of people like Banksy.
 
“For me, vandalism – I’m not for it – but I think there could be an assigned area where they bring in all these graffiti artistes and ask them to do some stuff. They don’t even have to do graffiti, they could do painting. They do that kind of stuff a lot in New York, and you know, it’s important.”
 
A pleasantly insightful answer, considering that we expected him to recommend Bloomingdale’s or $1 slices of pizza. And that’s not even half of what he had to say.
 
Keep reading to learn what the renowned designer had to share about creativity, styles women should avoid, and about the competition between Asian-American designers.

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