Naeem Khan

"I love Swarovski. I love Nadja Swarovski. I like her vision and how she combines a company with giving back to society and empowering people."
Naeem Khan

INTERVIEW YES, WE KAHN!

Meet colorful, sparkling celebrity designer Naeem Khan

Indian-American designer Naeem Khan isn’t just a fashion icon, he’s a living example of the power of fashion to make a difference in the world and alter the course of history. His designs are fit for queens (think Queen Bey, aka Beyoncé) and duchesses—most recently, the Duchess of Cambridge wore one of his Resort 2015 designs for a visit to the Taj Mahal in India. The photograph of her in the dress alongside Prince William will go down in history as a symbolic image of everlasting love. Like the Duchess’s Mexican-inspired dress with Indian influences, Khan’s designs are famous for their fusion of East and West, a chorus of color and exotic patterns singing harmoniously with more modern cuts.

Naeem Khan

Naeem Kahn has designed for First Lady Michelle Obama, who wore his pre-Fall 2016 floral dress to a state banquet with Cuban President Raul Castro, along with Carrie Underwood and timeless beauties such as Eva Longoria, Diane Kruger, Brooke Shields, and many more. Born and raised in Mumbai, he has been designing clothes for decades, but it was launching his eponymous collection in 2003 that cemented his rise to the top of the fashion industry. Catching him after he had just showcased his Spring 2017 bridal collection and his Fall 2016 ready-to-wear designs, we spoke to the iconic designer about his unique approach to fashion, and how he uses his artistry for good.

On the inspiration for his latest NY Fashion Week show…
As much as we’re inspired by New York, New York is not the world. It’s a melting pot. It has to be textures from New York, but also from India, from Morocco… We took elements from the rooftops of New York and combined that with elements from elsewhere. It’s a blend of New York City, art deco and the grandes dames of New York. I’ve lived in New York for so many years and I’ve been inspired by the rooftops and their details, so I combined that with influences from the richness of other parts of the world like India or Morocco. I mixed leather with suede, silk, glass and various laces. I combined all of that to create this magic dish.

On his fashion fusion empire…
I grew up in India. I grew up in textiles, so I understand what it takes to make beautiful, ornate embroideries. Then the question was ‘How do you build a bridge between America and India? You don’t want it to be too ethnic. It has to appeal to a palette for people in this world. I take old Hollywood and I combine it with modern India. It’s the same technique, along with the materials that were used a thousand years ago, but I’m putting the designs on modern bodies. I’m using handwork and transforming it into a modern look.

On the young girl in a red dress who walked the runway with him at his last Fashion Week show…
Her name is Trinity. She’s very sick and it was her wish to be in a fashion show. The Make a Wish Foundation joined forces with Glam for Good, a foundation that I’ve been involved with for many, many years. My stylist asked me if I could help with Trinity’s wish, so I designed a dress for her and she walked with me at the show. It’s all about making somebody’s wish come true and giving back to society.

On fashion as a catalyst for change…
I think what I did was a very tiny gesture compared to what should be done. If you look at the current refugee crisis and all of the other problems we have in India, Africa and other parts of the world, this was a small act. The problem with the fashion industry is that we’re all so busy—I feel like I don't have a moment to myself! But that shouldn't be an excuse. The fashion industry needs to do a lot more, and I’m certainly going to do as much as I can within the capacity of my business and my lifestyle. I just came back from Santa Domingo where I did a show to raise money for a school there—it enabled us to build two classrooms. It doesn’t actually take that much to give back. If we can collaborate with people, the fashion industry definitely can make a statement, but we need to be doing it a lot more.

On making it in the fashion business…
You have to follow your dreams. That’s No. 1. You have to work hard and do whatever it takes. When I grew up I was carrying boxes of fabrics, polishing shoes, doing everything possible. I’ve been in this industry for the last thirty years in America, and I’ve only had success in the last ten of them. So it’s taken me twenty years of work. There is no shortcut. You just have to keep trying. You have to show up, focus on your vision, and stay true to yourself.

On his ideal customer…
My ideal customer is a very fashion-savvy, educated woman—a woman of the world who knows exactly what she wants. She’s a head of state or a movie star—someone who isn’t afraid to make a statement. When she wears one of these designs, she goes out there and she feels like a million dollars.

On his future plans…
I’m working on my next collection and my bridal designs. My long-term goal is to show couture in Paris, so the question now is: “How can we take America to Paris and make it amazing?”

On Swarovski crystals…
I love Swarovski. I love Nadja Swarovski. I like her vision and how she combines a company with giving back to society and empowering people. That’s No. 1. She’s very inspiring as a person. As for No. 2, I love the materials. I use them sparingly without encrusting completely – as centers of flowers, in shoes. They are so fitting to what I do. I like shiny things, and Swarovski makes the best shiny things ever.

Swarovski Crystals Magazine #01 - Everyday Extraordinary

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