Hollywood Talks Politics at Fashion Designer Prabal Gurung's 10-Year Anniversary Party in L.A.

Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Prabal Gurung
From left: Laverne Cox, Prabal Gurung and Olivia Munn

“It’s how I see the world should be, whether it’s LGBTQ rights, whether it’s women’s rights to make decisions about their own bodies, whether it’s immigrant rights. I don’t think any of these things should be up for debate. That’s how I operate. ... So my hope for 2020 is someone who represents that," said Gurung.

Conversations were peppered with presidential politics at an intimate dinner party on Tuesday at the Sunset Tower Hotel — appropriate, given that the guest of honor was New York-based fashion designer Prabal Gurung, who was in Los Angeles to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of his eponymous fashion brand and his forthcoming self-titled book Prabal Gurung (Abrams Books, $75), which is due out Nov. 12. “New York was a city that opened their arms, but L.A. really validated me,” Gurung told The Hollywood Reporter.

Among the crowd at the soiree, co-hosted by Olivia Munn, were Laverne Cox, Tommy Dorfman, CAA agent and Lady Gaga ex Christian Carino, Lana Condor, Jaime King and fashion designer Rachel Zoe — decked out in styles by the designer and pearl jewelry from Japanese brand Tasaki's Atelier collection for which Gurung serves as global creative director. Also on hand were Hollywood stylists Law Roach, Jessica Paster, Elizabeth Stewart, Wayman Bannerman and Micah McDonald.

“Oftentimes in fashion, we talk about how this is fabulous and wonderful, but it’s very rare that we have a conversation of substance,” said Gurung, known for using the fashion runway to champion inclusivity and social issues. “I came to America as an immigrant with a dream of becoming a fashion designer almost 20 years ago. Tonight is about celebrating people who are different. It’s a celebration of people who are misfits. Whether you’re in the film industry, whether you’re in fashion, any creative field, we all know how it feels to be different.”

The theme of the 40-year-old designer's spring-summer 2020 anniversary show at New York Fashion Week in September concluded with models wearing beauty pageant-like sashes emblazoned with the question, “Who gets to be American?” — inspired by a headline on a November 2018 issue of Time magazine. (Gurung relocated his presentation to Brooklyn as part of a backlash against Hudson Yards owner Stephen Ross, following his Hamptons fundraiser for President Donald Trump.)

“The American dream is what this table looks like: colorful, diverse. That’s how I see it. A dream is not limited to the color of your skin, your race or your gender,” Gurung told THR.  "It’s how I see the world should be, whether it’s LGBTQ rights, whether it’s women’s rights to make decisions about their own bodies, whether it’s immigrant rights. I don’t think any of these things should be up for debate. That’s how I operate. That’s how I function. So my hope for 2020 is someone who represents that. I think it’s important for the Democratic party to narrow it down as soon as possible!”

Gurung also shared some of his most memorable moments dressing Hollywood stars: “When Demi Moore wore my first dress in 2010 and she tweeted about it, and then Oprah [Winfrey] wore [a red gown] on the cover of her magazine,” recalled Gurung. “But the biggest moment for me was when first lady Michelle Obama wore [the brand] because it validated my mom’s desire. I told her, ‘I’m dressing all these celebrities.’ And she said, ‘Let’s talk,’ and told me why I should dress Michelle Obama. A year later, when I dressed her, I was in Paris and I called my mom.”

Munn recalled first planning to collaborate with Gurung for the 2015 Met Ball: “I was going to go with him, and I was shooting this movie, Office Christmas Party, in Atlanta. We had been working on the dress. Then, at the last minute, I think it was literally two days before, the schedule changed on the movie and they wouldn’t let me out to go. We’re so busy that this is the first time we’ve been able to connect again in person in the same room together!”

Regarding Gurung's integrity in addressing larger issues through fashion, the actress commented, “There are some people who care enough to do the work to look like they care enough, and then there are people like Prabal. It has to be who you are. You have to do the right thing and be consistent when no one’s looking, when everyone’s looking. When your look, your brand, your reputation’s on the line, you still have to do the right thing. And you see that with Prabal!”

Cox recalled meeting Gurung “circa 2015." The actress elaborated: "I think it was Men’s Fashion Week and we met at the Boom Boom Room at The Standard. We were talking about social issues and politics and he was so smart. We just clicked. I was in his studio a few months later, and he made me a dress for the SAG Awards in 2016. I have a GIF of it, actually, on my phone. That was such a special night for me. It was the second year in the row that the cast of Orange Is the New Black won its ensemble SAG Award. I was with the man I love ... I had this sensation in the car on the way home, like, ‘This is the best night of my life.’ I felt amazing in that dress.”

Dorfman first met Gurung at the CFDA Awards a few years ago, saying, “This is a first date on a very momentous night! I feel very glamorous in this silk pussy-bow [caftan] gown. Someone called me a glass of rosé, and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s nice!’ I’m renovating a house right now and my kitchen cabinets are going to be this color, basically, so it was kind of kismet.”

As for presidential politics, Dorfman said, “I was really excited when Pete [Buttigieg] hit that scene and then that kind of fizzled for me. And so now, I’m just waiting. Honestly, I love Bernie [Sanders], I love [Elizabeth] Warren; if that was a joint ticket, sign me up. But I think it’s too early!”

“It’s looking like a Warren-Biden as of today,” said McDonald, while he and others swooned over the thought of a Michelle Obama-Oprah Winfrey ticket.

Cox said that she is looking for a candidate who is not “bought and paid for” by special interests, adding, “I think the main reason our system is broken is because of money in politics. … We have politicians who are not doing the will of the people, they are doing the will of the people who are financing their campaigns. So what needs to happen is we need to reform the way we run our elections!”

Gurung summed things up with a call to action: “At this point in our culture, in the zeitgeist of what is really important, no longer is it okay just to be tweeting — you have to show up. If you have a platform, it’s important that we speak up, that we show up, because what’s going to happen in the next four years is extremely important.”