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Naeem Khan – Emperor of Embroidery

By Meher Castelino

Naeem Khan - Emperor of Embroidery

Naeem Khan - Emperor of EmbroideryWhen the art of creative embroidery runs in one’s blood line, then the result is an artist who paints fabrics with a needle and thread.

Born in a family where for three generations embroidery has been the lifeline of the people, Naeem Khan has now brought the art of the generations onto the global stage. His grandfather Shamshuddin Khan started embroidery along with fabrics way back in 1930. At the age of 20 Khan hoped to join the Fashion Institute of Technology New York since his interest in fashion was noticed by the parents at an early age.

But as luck would have it FIT did not figure in Khan’s career graph, nor did any formal fashion training. Instead a chance meeting with Roy Halston Frowick was the start of his introduction to the world of fashion. As an apprentice Khan learnt some valuable lessons with this “hands-on” opportunity. Working with Halston gave Khan the experience no design school could have given and the success that he has attained has proved it. The art of draping, cutting and tailoring by Halston brought Khan in contact with top Hollywood stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Liza Minnelli and many others of that era.

obamaIn 2003 Khan launched his label and since then has been holding shows regularly in New York for 16 seasons. Selling in 19 countries but not yet officially in India even though many of the Bollywood beauties have been wearing his creations at various film events; Khan holds numerous trunk shows every month in the USA.

Khan’s big break came when USA First Lady, Michelle Obama wore his creations at most important state functions as well as recently during the Oscar presentation via video recording. With such an illustrious stamp for his creations, Khan has not looked back. Now Hollywood beauties regularly rush to him, for Red Carpet entries during Oscar nights.

But in spite of winning so many accolades in the USA and around the world, it seems that seasoned designers like Khan can also get a little nervous during their shows as was the case when he presented for the first time in India at Lakmé Fashion Week Summer/Resort 2013 and admitted honestly, “I am a little nervous since this was the first time my parents will be attending my show along with my younger brother Azeem.” Azeem Khan, who is a well-known designer in Mumbai, is renowned for his exquisite embroidery in India.

Khan’s collection at Lakmé Fashion Week Summer/Resort 2013 was a pleasant mix of his latest Spring/Summer 2013 as well as some choice pieces from the Autumn/Winter 2013 collection.

Khan revealed his profound knowledge of embroidery as each creation came down the ramp. The silhouettes were simple and fuss free but the construction had a strong hold on the garments. Khan opened the show with a black and white line of gowns, dresses, trousers and long skirts with carefully placed embroidery. The high collars, sleeves and bodices were dazzling with Indian work. There was a stunning coat gown, a fully encrusted version and a beautiful one with a sexy plunge neck. Pants were kept very skinny, but had flowing wrap skirts around them and were teamed with gleaming boleros splashed with crystals.

Velvet came in large numbers at the end of the show for floor length coats with antique work, batwing gown, Grecian cowl vision and a solitary ivory satin entry which had an intricate crystal and pearl bodice. To pay homage to his routes Khan’s final presentation was a striped draped gown inspired by a sari.

But very often Khan took a break from embroidery and showed some interesting prints as he has done in New York. Floral shifts in a mix of blue; black and white and some in brown gave a change to the embellished scenario. But the two red draped gowns were amazing creations of beauty and revealed Khan’s ease with which he used mono colours with the greatest of ease.

During the Lakmé Fashion Week Summer/Resort 2013 season Khan was part of a panel that discussed the topic “Fashion Fades Style Remains” when he stated, his take on fashion and his own fashion sensibilities, and expressed that he never looked at an image of a perfect woman in his mind but rather, he tried to amplify the strength, grace and poise in every woman through his clothing.

‘Zip up and go’ as he says is how he allows his creations to be fluid and easy to wear. The woman is glamorous, she just needs a spotlight! Keeping it simple and classic with traditional Indian intricacy and simple beading, Khan, the designer and stylist concluded the session saying “Fashion is ‘different things to different people’ and would mean differently to different designers and while expressing one’s self is essential, customizing to fit within the market along with a signature style, is what sets one apart from the rest.”

Today, Naeem Khan is one of the most respected designers not only in the USA but globally and it is wonderful that he has carved a niche for himself in the fashion world with dedicated work and the knowledge of Indian craft as the basis.

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