Prabal Gurung keeps the First Lady and Lady Gaga in frocks. For Spring his muse was Marilyn Monroe. "It's a celebration of the elegant woman; she's becoming an endangered species," he said before his show. "I wanted to put her in a modern context." Gurung's idealized creature this season comes with a bite. Monroe's last sitting with Bert Stern was on his mood board. And roses. "They're beautiful for their looks," he said, "but also their thorns."
The mood was mid-century, only amped way, way up with pastels and acid brights—colors that practically pulsated under the fluorescent lights of the clear plastic-encased set. But if the silhouettes—wiggle dresses, grand opera coats, narrow pencil skirts with deep back vents—said 1950s, the execution was twenty-first century high-tech. The understated white cotton poplin sheath he opened the show with exposed a molded plastic harness in back (there's that bite). The tweed bouclé he used for a skirtsuit earned the term "technical," woven as it was on plastic thread. And only after much cajoling did his factory agree to try screen-printing a translucent PVC raincoat with his voluptuous abstract rose motif.
Some of the plastic pieces were too futuristic and experimental for their own good—try sitting down in a PVC pencil skirt. But Gurung got into a groove with the final third of his show. The quartet of strapless satin numbers with exposed corsets and cascades of ruffles down the back were a riposte to the insipid red-carpet fare Hollywood tends to favor. And it will be a very lucky girl who gets to wear his white-and-black sweetheart gown with the exuberant sash at the waist.
Raf Simons' recent collections were an undeniable influence here. Gurung might never lead the fashion conversation like the Belgian who is now running Dior. Still, he's an accomplished technician. He cuts a mean, mean dress.