He may show his collections on the runways of New York Fashion Week, but the red carpets from California to Cannes are where his work truly shines. And among his A-List devotees, Naeem Khan counts First Lady Michelle Obama as a famous fan. Known for his use of rich textiles, glittering embellishments and over-the-top embroidery, his gowns are the go-to for special events. Khan’s fashion education began in Mumbai with his father and grandfather, whose creations were worn by Indian royalty. As a teenager, he moved to Manhattan to work as an apprentice under iconic American designer Halston. By the time he launched his own line in 2003, Khan had honed his skills and refined his own aesthetic, blending the vibrant colors and textures of his Eastern roots with couture construction and classic silhouettes. His spring collection is no different, marked by beaded caftans in a rainbow of bright floral prints and candy-colored ball gowns. They’re the perfect pieces for the Naeem Khan ideal: a powerful woman who is not afraid to be glamorous.
What inspired your spring collection?
Spring is inspired by the beautiful Mediterranean–the gardens of the South of France, the blue waters of Capri, and the soft palette of the French impressionists. Icons such as Sophia Loren, Grace Kelly, Brigitte Bardot and Jackie Kennedy came to mind while I was envisioning this setting.
Tell us about the gorgeous earrings that the models wore.
The earrings were designed by Ranjana Khan, my wife, to complement the collection. They have a tropical look that was achieved with colorful semiprecious stones, and finished with silk and raffia.
Do you have a favorite dress from the collection?
The gunmetal jumpsuit, which features a deco pattern that I hand drew, and silver micro beads that were individually sewn on to silk chiffon [opposite page, bottom left].
Your spring looks are perfect for a glamorous tropical vacation. What’s your favorite travel destination?
I love Cartagena [in Colombia]. It’s such a happy place, full of life and color, music and beautiful people.
What is your favorite red carpet moment?
The first dress I designed for the First Lady, Michelle Obama. She was meeting with the Prime Minister of India, so I wanted to combine a Hollywood silhouette with embroidery and pattern that is typical of India. The pattern was inspired by an Andy Warhol piece.
Did you always want to design dresses?
Always, since I was twelve years old. It was built into my DNA. I watched my father design formal wear for India’s most influential people and I knew that I would want to pursue a similar path.
What was the most important thing you learned working alongside Halston?
The first thing I learned was discipline, which is essential in this business. The second most important thing I learned was draping and construction. To master this, you must know your materials and how they will translate into a garment. The fabric will speak to you. Halston also taught me that design and culture go hand in hand. Your social life should inspire your work.
Your gowns have such intricate beading and embroidery. How many hours go into completing one finished look?
It takes about three to four months to design a collection. My gowns range from 100 to 1,000 hours, depending on the details. The beadwork is all hand done, and often sewn onto the garment one by one. It’s a laborious process, but the outcome is worth it.
Does India continue to inspire your work?
Yes, it is a magical country with diverse cultural and design aspects. The sense of color, and rich history of arts and crafts are things I always try to infuse into my collections.