Antee Gurung didn’t know fashion would be her calling. Sure, she always found comfort in drawing croquis and dresses of her own. But Gurung was a shy, introverted kid. Never did she imagine becoming one of the most celebrated fashion designers in the country.
“I always knew my way around clothes,” Gurung tells ApEx. “Garment colors pulled me and made me more interested in their forms and functions whereas the construction and fluidity of apparels fascinated me.” But even with an instinct for design and a passion for clothing, she didn’t know fashion designing was a career option.
Instead, she initially opted for fashion blogging. At a time it was still an alien concept in Nepal, Gurung enjoyed creating content about fashion online while she was still a high school student. Upon graduating from school, she became convinced fashion designing was a passion worth pursuing.
That was more than a decade ago. Today, Inspire Studio, Gurung’s clothing brand, is one of the biggest Nepali brands selling bridal and traditional wear and boasting over 23,000 followers on Instagram. Her designs have made it to countless stages and special ceremonies. Launched in 2014, the label took off after consumers started noticing her attention to detail.
With the brand’s growth Gurung also developed as a person. She feels like she’s learned more while working on her brand than she did in design school. “A lot has changed in the past decade,” she says. “As a young designer, I was more interested in media coverage and audience appreciation. But once I got that, I realized personal and artistic growth was way more valuable than momentary gains.” This understanding also made Gurung focus on details.
Inspire Studio has become a go-to brand for those seeking formidable stage presence. Many celebrities have reached out to the brand for clothing items, including winners of the Miss Nepal beauty pageant. Gurung designed the gown that won Asmi Shrestha—Miss Nepal 2016—the best evening-wear award, in what is among Gurung’s most memorable accomplishments. Her designs have also been showcased in London, Hong Kong, and Bangladesh.
But Gurung isn’t the only one that demands perfectionism at every turn. Her clients expect quality clothing that fulfill their needs, and much of Gurung’s working days are spent catering to them. “Most of my clients say the brand’s essence, the feminine and elegant touch my collections exude, is what makes it stand out,” she says.
While much of the label’s focus has been on women’s ethnic and cultural clothing, as the designer wanted to cater more to occasion and bridal wear, Gurung can design any kind of attire as long as it makes people happy. This is why she’s also officially launching Antee Gurung. Co, an everyday fashion brand that focuses on modern wear for contemporary women. “The idea came to fruition during the Covid-19 pandemic,” she says. “It was a saving grace to be able to work on new things during these otherwise trying times.”
As all of her products are made from scratch in Nepal—something she takes a lot of pride in—and her responsibilities go beyond making designs. Aside from meeting her clients, she is also busy managing her business.
“The biggest misconception is that designing is an easy, fancy job, but there is much more to it than what they see on the runway and ads. Beyond the glossy images, you need to put in both physical and creative effort to run a fashion business,” she says. “As a self-made designer, I have struggled to make a name for myself. But my struggles have made me stronger and more perceptive too.”