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Designer Dossier: Naeem Khan

Indian-American designer Naeem Khan has an affinity for beauty and culture. His clothes, known to embody an essence of history, are often seen worn by powerful women, including first lady, Michelle Obama.

Q: When was the moment you knew you wanted to be a fashion designer?

I wanted to be a fashion designer at a very, very young age. I think it must have been around 13 or 14 years, when I liked to watch the tailors in my mother’s atelier, where all the custom clothes were made in the house. I would hang out with the cutters and the tailors and they used to love me. I used to just play around with scissors and cut cloth and I loved it, so I knew that I wanted to do this.

Q: Describe your experience working for fashion great, Halston.

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I was his assistant and I learned fashion from him. He was amazing. He was the best American designer ever. And I come from a land where, as a young boy growing up, there was a lot of chaos, because India is full of lots of colors and design and lots of textures. Then I came to work for Halston and it was about simplicity. In that simplicity, there was still a lot of complexity. So, how to design minimal and still be very, very beautiful – he was a master at that.

Q: Describe the style of your designs in a few words.

I design clothes for a very, very powerful woman. She loves to make a statement. She’s not afraid to have the light shine on her. She’s a movie star. She’s a first lady. She’s a socialite. She is a powerful woman. So, I design clothes for women who like glamour, who are confident in themselves – who are not afraid to walk in like a billion dollars.

Q: When designing, what inspires you the most?

Many things inspire me. Life inspires me. Nature inspires me. Books with history and culture inspire me. Colors in nature, patterns in nature. History, when you think of the Ottoman Empire, the French or the Indian’s royalty or Chinese royalty. Even America – where all different cultures thrive. Most of my collections are based on culture. I think we can relate to cultures way better than anything else. That’s a very strong business point for me because it helps people relate to them, and people buy them because of that, apart from being beautiful, too.

Q: What is it like to work with so many celebrities? Who is your favorite?

It’s really an amazing feeling when you see somebody powerful wearing your clothes – somebody powerful, somebody beautiful, movie star or royalty or the first lady. It makes you feel a sense of arrival. It’s a nod from the top people saying you make really beautiful things. It’s escalating, but my favorite, of course, is the first lady. I just feel she is the head of our country and it makes me feel proud that she wears my clothes. Of course, there are many of the movie stars who I love. It’s terrible to name one or two.

Q: What is your favorite thing about the Florida woman?

Florida is amazing. What I love about Florida is that people are free, people are relaxed, people are sexy, people are wanting to dress. People come here to holiday. It’s a great place for people to wear beautiful things. The woman in Palm Beach is a very influential and powerful woman. She comes from wealth, she comes from taste and she loves beautiful clothes, so it’s a great city for my kind of clothing. And I personally love Florida because I love the weather and it just makes me happy.