How Fashion Designer Prabal Gurung Is Helping Provide Masks to Hospitals In Need

In his Thrive Questionnaire, the designer opens up about facing failure, dealing with burnout, and the power of giving back in challenging times.

Gold House, the largest nonprofit collective of Asian cultural leaders that accelerates the inclusive representation and empowerment of Asians, announces its third annual A100 List to celebrate Asians and Asian American & Pacific Islanders (AAPI) and their transformative contributions to society. The seminal 2020 A100 commences Asian Pacific American Heritage Month by spotlighting the 100 most esteemed and impactful Asians in entertainment and media, fashion and lifestyle, technology, business, and social activism. Meet this year’s Honorees at A100List.com.

When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people. Below, Prabal Gurung opens up about facing failure, dealing with burnout, and the power of giving back in challenging times.

Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed? 

Prabal Gurung: The first thing I always do when I get up is make my bed. It’s an old habit from my time in catholic boarding school. I used to hate when I was a kid, but now I appreciate it so much because it starts my day off right. Then I drink a glass of water with a shot of apple cider vinegar, and then I drink hot water with a slice of lemon, fresh ginger, fresh turmeric and turn on the morning news. 

TG: What gives you energy? 

PG: Life. Each morning when I wake up, I am excited, as I look at it as an endless possibility of discovering and learning new things. That is what makes me grateful to be alive. 

TG: What’s your secret life hack? 

PG: Writing things down! I chronicle my ideas and goals and then turn it into a vision board. Also, my whatsapp chats and hour long phone calls with my siblings who live in Kathmandu and Mumbai. 

TG: Name a book that changed your life. 

PG: The Alchemist and When Things Fall Apart 

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you? 

PG: I have a love hate relationship with my phone. Yes, it is beside my bedside, but I am good at switching off. 

TG: How do you deal with email? 

PG: I answer more or less every email I get! I try to be vigilant. 

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it? 

PG: Sit down, breathe and enjoy the silence. 

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why? 

PG: I live in Manhattan and work in Fashion, feeling burned out is the fuel that keeps us all going! Recently the non-stop cycle of the fashion industry left me feeling a little exhausted so I decided to go on holiday by myself to Jamaica. 

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it? 

PG: When the COVID-19 pandemic started I wanted to make medical grade PPE masks ourselves in the atelier. I soon realized that we weren’t equipped to do so and felt very defeated. But then we found a way of procuring and distributing N95 respirator masks to hospitals in marginalized communities in Queens, Harlem, and Brooklyn. When the healthcare workers received their masks, I could breathe a little sigh of relief. I have always been that kind of person who feels that I need to do everything in my power to show up for people. 

TG: How do you prioritize when you have an overwhelming amount to do? 

PG: I have a to do list book, which helps me organise my tasks for the day and the week according to the urgency of the matter. 

TG: What advice would you give your younger self about reducing stress? 

PG: This is all temporary. You have miles to go and things to do, so don’t sweat the small stuff. And eat your vegetables! 

TG: Do you have any role models for living a thriving life? 

PG: Yes, my mother, Gloria Steinem, Martin Luther King, Bernie Sanders and Oprah Winfrey. 

TG: What’s your personal warning sign that you’re depleted? 

PG: When I am deeply craving solitude, I get signs from my body. It feels weaker. I get messages such as my annoyance with even my loved ones, that I hold so dearly, or the music that I love listening to all of a sudden becomes annoying.

TG: When you notice you’re getting too stressed, what do you do to course correct? 

PG: I set aside what I am doing and breathe, then I listen to music, usually its classical piano or Al Green… sometimes I listen to old soul music and then I dance…by myself. 

TG: What’s a surprising way you practice mindfulness? 

PG: Singing, Dancing, working out and sketching. How do you reframe negative thinking? I practice gratitude. That is the only way to let the negative thoughts dissipate. 

TG: What brings you optimism? 

PG: Life… I am an extremely optimistic person with a very realistic point of view. Glass half full or rather glass 90% full kinda guy. Also my nephew and niece make me hopeful for our future. The younger generation! 

TG: Tell us about a small change you have made in your life to improve your sleep. What did you do, how long did it take until it became effective, and how you sustain this habit? 

PG: So my calendar is typically really full with all work related appointments. The minute I factor in, time to wake up, meditate, eat, workout, do my beauty routine, read and sleep.. everything that is personal and not supposed to be on the work calendar falls into place. I feel that when I am sticking to my routines and filling my days with things that make me happy, I sleep better. 

TG: Tell us about a small change you have made in your life to improve the way you connect with others. What did you do, how long did it take until it became effective, and how you sustain this habit? 

PG: I am very very good at keeping in touch with the people I love and who inspire me: group chats, phone calls, little check ins etc. 

TG: Tell us about a small change you have made in your life to improve your focus. What did you do, how long did it take until it became effective, and how you sustain this habit? 

PG: Meditation, meditation and meditation! Also, music and writing down lists have really helped me achieve my goals. It wasn’t always easy, especially meditation, but my mother who is an avid mediator was the one who eventually changed my habits. 

TG: What was the biggest turning point in your life? 

PG: I would say the first was 20 years ago, when I decided to leave my family back home in Nepal and come to America to live in New York (the city of misfits) and pursue my American Dream. Back home this was considered a radical idea, a pipe dream. The second would be when I started my foundation Shikshya Foundation Nepal. This started 9 years ago with 12 girls, and now we have impacted more than 70,000 lives…that was a big turning point in my life as I realized my life is no longer just for me. 

TG: What’s your secret time-saver in the morning? 

PG: Having breakfast with my mom every morning, 

TG: What’s your evening routine that helps you unwind and go to sleep? 

PG: I spend a considerable amount of time with my nightly skin care routine as I love it and also it allows me to decompress and go over the day that just happened and be grateful for it. Then once I am in bed, I listen to David Attenborough on Planet earth. He has the most calming and soothing voice… whenever I hear his voice I feel like everything is going to be alright. 

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