ASHLEY GRAHAM IS THE FACE OF PRABAL GURUNG'S DEBUT LANE BRYANT CAMPAIGN

fashion Fashion

Photo: Inez and Vinoodh/Lane Bryant

On a sunny morning last May, Christian Siriano filled a runway with the who's-who of the body positivity movement — supermodels Ashley Graham and Candice Huffine, as well as bloggers Gabi Fresh and Nicolette Mason — to celebrate his debut collaboration with Lane Bryant. The collection garnered rave reviews, and the plus-size retailer debuted its second collection with Siriano in September. The partnership clearly hit a nerve industry-wide, from the shoppers themselves enthused by the designs to the broader body image activism that swept 2016. But one thing Siriano mentioned last spring was that, with the success of his Lane Bryant collection, he hopes to motivate other designers to join him. "I think there will be new designers that will also embrace this," he then told Fashionista. "I'm sure there will be some coming out of the woodwork soon that you would never imagine."

Siriano, of course, was right: The retailer announced in July that Prabal Gurung would be up next, with a 12-piece limited-edition line, fronted by Graham, due out in 180 stores and LaneBryant.com come March. Gurung himself is no stranger to collaborations, linking up with Target, Toms and even Pokémon in the last four years. This time, as he told Vogue's Lynn Yaeger in the magazine's March issue, is special. "For the longest time, 'plus-size' was put on the back burner," he said, explaining his sensitivity to issues of diversity. (Which, for the record, came well-documented at his Fall 2017 runway show on Sunday.) "It was like, 'You can't sit with us — you're not glamorous!'" Gurung, who was born in Singapore and raised in Nepal, has never seen it that way, telling Yaeger he understands "what it feels like to not be represented in the culture."

The Lane Bryant lightbulb first went off about a year and a half ago, while in a taxi the night of the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show when he passed a billboard for Lane Bryant's "I'm No Angel" campaign. "At that moment, I knew it made sense to have the conversation with Lane Bryant," he told Yaeger. "Fashion gave me a platform to talk about these things — how was I going to use it?"

Enter Graham, who has worked with Lane Bryant since she was 13: In the 15-odd months since she appeared in that controversial "I'm No Angel" campaign, Graham's career has absolutely exploded to include, for one, covers of Sports Illustrated, British Vogue and, this month, the almighty spring fashion issue of U.S. Vogue. "I could see there was something in his eyes — an intention," she said of the minute she met Gurung. "You could just tell he wanted to change the way people look at beauty."

Per Vogue, the clothing itself is exquisite, with Yaeger writing that it challenges the "outmoded and frankly dumb assumption that it is impossible to make beautiful clothes for curvier customers." Pieces feature nipped-in waists and horizontal stripes, and include every woman's dream cropped biker jacket; Gurung's favorite, he said, is "a chunky knit, a great trench for layering, and a sexy-yet-sophisticated jumpsuit to go from day to night." His bottom line was the same, see: "We designed for the same woman we always design for."

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