Prabal Gurung was just a child growing up in Nepal when he was first seduced by a red lip. “I couldn’t have been older than 4 or 5, but I remember my mother coming home from work, sitting at her vanity, and applying red lipstick,” the fashion designer says. “And then, Paloma Picasso! Seeing that ad of her wearing red lipstick with her face in her hands got me thinking forthe first time of leaving Nepal. I began dreaming of a place where I’d find my own way.”
And that he did. In 2009, Gurung launched his namesake collection with a New York runway show full of hand-sewn feather skirts, fur jackets, ruffled blouses, and—of course—crimsonkissers. “The country was in a deep recession, and I was practically unknown,” he says of his debut. “My friends handled the production, the venue was free, and MAC did the makeup. They hardly knew a thing about me, but they took a risk.”
Five years later, that risk is still paying off. This month, MAC will launch a collection with Gurung, who won the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Swarovski Award for women’s wear in 2011 and has since dressed Michelle Obama, Amanda Seyfried, and Kate Middleton. The 14 products—in hues ranging from beige-y nudes to smoky charcoals—include three eyeshadow duos, eyeliner, cream blush, highlighter, three shades of lipstick with corresponding glosses, and a bronzer.
Gurung insisted on being involved creatively well beyond the color palette. “I wanted a lipstick that, evenafter it’s gone, women would keep for the packaging,”says Gurung, whose inspiration comes from sourcesas diverse as the woven pattern of a trash can andartworks by Damien Hirst and Sylvie Fleury. The result:burnished-gold cases that are almost sculptural.Paloma would no doubt approve.