The red carpet may be the most glamorous place people can be, especially with the extravagant parade of the most famous people on earth showered with flashing lights and clicking cameras left and right. People from all over the globe often get excited to see their favorite stars, but aside from the famous faces walking down on the red carpet, what people look forward to are the designer gowns worn by the celebrities.
“Who are you wearing?” is the common question asked to the celebrities, which is always responded with names everyone knows—Alexander McQueen, Christian Dior, Calvin Klein and Dolce & Gabbana. While these big names often dominate the red carpet, from time to time, a creative genius or an impressive brand rises up and makes an appearance—one that sparks its fame and success. Such is the story of Naeem Khan, the name of a brand and designer that successfully wowed in the red carpet.
Learning from the “best fashion school”
Naeem Khan has been surrounded with glamorous things since he was young. His family has a fabric-making and embroidery company that’s been passed on to three generations, that even Naeem himself remembers to have played with fine and luxurious fabrics in their family home back in Mumbai (then Bombay).
His actual experience in fashion started when he went to New York after his parents encourage him to do so. At first, he wanted to go to the Fashion Institute of Technology, but a better opportunity came: a chance to work with the legendary designer, Halston. It was the business deal between Naeem’s father and Halston that allowed him to meet the designer, and eventually have the great opportunity to learn directly from him. Aside from liaising between his father’s Mumbai office and the New York set-up, he was at an unofficial but the greatest “fashion school” in the world—right under the wings of Halston.
With the chance to learn from Halston, Naeem spent time with him as a skill and knowledge sponge—he took notice of the cutting, moulding, manipulating, and draping techniques of the designer. He was fully into the subculture behind Halston’s works, together with Liza Minnelli, Truman Capote, Elizabeth Taylor, and Andy Warhol. With his theatrical costume work alongside Minnelli, Naeem was able to learn and fully understand the process and techniques behind designing for theatre.
Naeem also served as a liaising agent between Andy Warhol and Halston, allowing him to have a close interaction with the icon. Warhol was another mentor that shared to Naeem priceless knowledge on his art creation process—even the conceptualization and going outside the box for design inspirations. Naeem can still recall how Warhol showed and explained the process of drawing the renowned Warhol Poppies. Naeem had such respect for the man that one of his best and highly-praised gown, worn by Michelle Obama, was a tribute design for him. The gown’s design was a mix of Naeem’s Indian heritage and traditional work on a traditional American silhouette, together with Warhol’s Poppies.
Another mentor Naeem had was Roy Halston Frowick, an Amercan fashion designer who also had the chance to be known for his great designs for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, a highly esteemed former First Lady and a fashion icon.
The Naeem Khan process
It’s true that Naeem hails from a family with a rich fabric garment background, especially the design of traditional clothing of India, but he prefers to draw inspiration and ideas from a wider perspective. Research is an integral part of the design process for Naeem Khan, and he studies a plethora of background, such as Russian-French design or the fashion during the Ottoman Empire. Through this, the brand is able to incorporate a splash of a traditional perspective into the designs with embroideries which Naeem himself describes as modern and “very Hollywood”.
Naeem Khan gets its fabrics from different countries like Japan, Italy and France, while the process of designing and embroidery development take place in New York. To have the authentic Indian quality, the craftwork added to the designs are sourced from India. Then the assembly and final touches happens back in New York.
Red carpet and limelight moments
The first and probably the biggest limelight moment for the brand was when First Lady Michele Obama wore a silver Naeem Khan dress in her surprise appearance in the Oscars. The first lady’s outfit during that highly-watched award night catapulted the brand and the designer’s fame, a wonderful gesture to show her support for the brand and the designer she loved. She has been spotted different times wearing Naeem Khan, one of which was during a state dinner where she wore an ivory column dress. For that day, Naeem Khan became the third most Googled person, a great boost on the brand’s image and success.
But aside from the revered first lady, a lot of A-list celebrities have been charmed by Naeem Khan’s impressive designs, including Beyoncé, Eva Longoria, Penelope Cruz, Emily Blunt and Padma Lakshmi. Queen Noor of Jordan is also one of the bran’s fans and constant piece wearer, while other pieces and designs from the brand appeared in various TV shows and fashion girls, such as Dreamgirls and Sex & the City.