(September 24, 2021) It’s his intricately detailed, ornate and impeccable designs that set Indian fashion designer Naeem Khan apart in the world of fashion. His designs are a beautiful amalgamation of chic opulence and modern glamor that have made him a global name in international fashion circles. If his creations have adorned the shelves of Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus, his designs have besotted the likes of Michelle Obama, Kate Middleton, and Jennifer Lopez.
Khan, who began his eponymous label in 2003, has carved a niche for himself in the years since. His works have cast a spell on the runways and have earned him great reputation in glamor world. For someone who had a great head start at the House of Halston, Khan learnt from the best in the world of fashion. Here’s the story of this Global Indian who is making India proud on the international circuit.
Love for design – it’s in his DNA
Born as Naeemuddin Khan in Bareilly and raised in Mumbai, Khan’s tryst with textiles began early in life, courtesy his father and grandfather. Both the men of the house designed clothing for the royal families, and Khan soon followed suit as he fell in love with the intricate craft. “Every designer needs a story. Mine is all about glamour because my family has been in the business of glamour for three generations. My grandfather Shamshuddin Khan started his embroidery and fabric-making business in the 1930s. My earliest memory is of playing with yards of rich fabric spread across my house in Bombay [as Mumbai was called then], and making toys out of wooden spools,” the Indian fashion designer said in an interview to Times of India.
Training with the best
This childhood hobby turned into a passion for creating clothes, and seeing Khan’s love for textile and clothing, his parents encouraged him to study fashion abroad. That’s when he decided to enroll in the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. But destiny had bigger plans for a then 20-year-old Khan as he landed an apprenticeship at the House of Halston. “My father accompanied me to the United States, where he had a meeting about exporting embroidery with Halston. I felt an immediate connect with him. As for Halston, he thought I could be the liaison between my father’s company in Bombay and his set-up in New York. When the legendary designer asked me to work with him, my fashion school plans went out the window. Learning from Halston and being his apprentice at the age of 20 was like going to the best fashion school in the world,” he added.
It was here that Indian fashion designer mastered the art of draping and garment construction to create an elegant silhouette and worked with icons like Elizabeth Taylor, Liza Minnelli and Truman Capote. They influenced and shaped him to become a world-class designer. If he understood the intricacies of designing for theatre from Minelli, he learnt to conceptualize from Andy Warhol. House of Halston turned out to be the perfect training ground for a young Khan, who was keen to learn from the master designer. The 63-year-old eventually created his own unique style after merging the design philosophy learnt at Haltson with the knowledge gained from his family business.
Styling the global icons
After working with the fashion house for a long time, Khan launched his eponymous label in 2003 and soon his collection started gracing the runways of the biggest fashion weeks across the globe. From Cameron Diaz, Beyonce, Taylor Swift to Padma Lakshmi, and Queen Noor of Jordan, the who’s who of celebrities flaunted the exquisite gowns created by Khan.
But the biggest moment for the designer came when he styled former First Lady Michelle Obama in 2009 for her first state dinner thrown in honor of then PM Manmohan Singh. In no time, he became the most Googled name in the world. The cream-colored silver-sequinned gown that caught the fancy of the world took over a month to be readied between his studio in the US and the family’s workshop in Colaba: it was a true representation of modern Indian fashion. That one design put Khan and his craft on the global map. In the following years, Khan crafted more than 20 outfits for Michelle.
It wasn’t just the former First Lady who was enchanted by Khan’s designs. The Duchess of Cambridge, too, wore a creation by the designer on her maiden visit to India in 2016. Kate Middleton looked picture perfect in a dress from Khan’s resort 2015 collection when she posed for a picture at the Taj Mahal.
Khan is the blue-chip name in the international fashion circle but he has a strong connection with his roots. The designer sources a lot of embroidery from Indian craftsmen. His fabrics come from Italy and France, he sketches in his studio in New York, sources craftwork from India, and assembles his dresses back in New York. The designer has become a global icon but his love for Indian culture keeps him grounded. “I feel we come from such a rich heritage and I, in no way, would ever give up any of it,” the Indian fashion designer told India Today.