Photos courtesy of Naeem Khan

Designer Naeem Khan's reputation is synonymous with glamour. Celebrities like Beyoncé, Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift choose his gowns when they want to look striking on the red carpet. The latest collection is filled with the designer's signature style -- "tailored embellishment." His flawlessly constructed silhouettes get the royal treatment with intricate beading and embroidery.

Khan spoke with StyleList before a private luncheon and fashion show at Neiman Marcus in San Francisco.



StyleList: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. We love the latest collection, and from all the red carpet photos, it looks like celebrities do too.

Naeem Khan: Well, I love doing glamorous clothes, and glamour goes hand in hand with celebrity.

SL: How closely do you work with your celebrity clients?

NK: Unless they are friends, I'm not usually able to work directly with them, because I'm very involved in my company and designing the collections. But I have a great team that works with the stars. Usually, their stylists will go online – the clothes are all available online – then call and say, "Please send these over for Miss So-and-So to try." And if the celebrity likes it, then she wears it!

Photos courtesy of Naeem Khan


SL: What words would you use to describe your clothes?

NK: "Classic glamour."

SL: Which celebrity best embodies the glamour of your clothes?

NK: Hard to say, they are all so amazing in their own worlds. I love Beyoncé, and Carrie Underwood. Or Kim Catrall. And Brooke Shields – she's such a good human being. It gives me great pleasure that someone like her is wearing my clothes.

SL: Speaking of glamour and Beyoncé, you did costumes for "Dreamgirls." What was that like?

NK: It's one of the best things I've ever done. I had no idea what the movie would become. They sent me the script and asked if I could do two scenes. One was the finale, when the girls come out at the end. I made those dresses out of gold, and titanium, which I chose for the subtle, beautiful sheen. Going to the premiere was the biggest surprise of my life; seeing how beautiful they looked in the clothes was the biggest thrill!

SL: Would you like to do more films?

NK: I actually have more interest in the theater and ballet. Recently, I did costumes for "Sleeping Beauty" in Florida. They were inspired by the "Padshahnama," a book of paintings of kings from the time the Moguls ruled India. Talk about glamour! Everything was made of real gold and silver -- the turbans, the jewels. So royal! I used designs from the book for the costume embellishments. So you had this French ballet, but when you looked closely, all the patterns were Indian. I always ask, how can I take something from India and give it to the western world? So this was my gift. (They truly were a gift -- Khan created the costumes pro bono for the ballet.)

Photos courtesy of Naeem Khan

SL: Your designs have such rich embellishments, but it sounds like you also love the construction and the fundamentals of design.

NK: Yes, that's very important. I learned it from Halston actually. I worked with him when I first came to this country. There is no school where you can go to learn this, it comes from within, and trial and error. I also had the opportunity to be born into a family that owns factories. For three generations my family has been making clothes for the royal families and society of India. I grew up seeing it everyday, knowing the measurement of the stitch and the millimeter of the thread. One stitch can create so many different things. It's very complicated, like cooking. There are maybe a million ingredients and I have a kitchen in my head.

SL: Do you have a favorite piece in the collection?


NK: (Jumping up and running over to a gorgeous red paisley coat) I love this coat! Not the most practical thing, (laughs) but fashion is not always about practicality. See this paisley? I copied it large and small, twisted up and down, used this part to created the border -- there are only one or two elements, but all used in different ways. And the piece is embroidered as a whole, not on panels. It takes two people several days, or weeks, to do this kind of embroidery.

SL: What's next for your company?

NK: My business is at the very upper crust of the fashion triangle. My big goal is to make my company a multi-faceted brand, a $100 million business.

SL: Would you ever consider doing a partnership with a mass market retailer, like Target or H&M?

NK: Actually, I'm doing one right now with Home Shopping Network. I'm designing a collection which will hopefully air in October. It's about bringing glamour to the masses. The dresses are all under $300, but they are amazing. Young, fun dresses, like Carrie Underwood or Taylor Swift would wear.

SL: Who would you like to dress?

NK: She's not an actress, Daphne Guinness, the socialite and fashion icon. In the movie world, I would say Nicole Kidman. I love her body and she has a very sultry way about her. Fashion is a dog-eat-dog world. I put my effort into making beautiful things, and people come to me, and I'm glad for that.