After his gorgeous, geometric looks took the runway for Spring 2013, Naeem Khan paid a visit to the American Express Skybox to not only take some jabs at his foodie friend Todd English, but also to shed some light on his new line. Just minutes before we met up with Khan, the Indian-born designer presented an exquisite collection inspired by The Duchess of Windsor, exotic gardens, fiery skies, and the Arabian Sea. In the comfort of the Skybox, Khan mulled over his collection, what inspires him, and the world of fashion today.
Congratulations on an amazing collection! It was so beautiful and there’s so much to talk about! What was your inspiration?
It was a combination of things. When you’re designing a collection, you can be super focused on one thing or you can go a little wider. This collection went a little wider. It had started from Wallis Simpson because I was kind of fascinated with her. Wallis was becoming a bit tricky because it’s very retro… so I put Wallis in the back. Then it was the travel. It was being by myself, for a week in the desert, watching the sky burning the earth the way it does. Then, with new technology. I took these pictures with my telephone and I sent these pictures to Italy, where, within a week, I had these fabrics printed in that sunset. I loved the idea of using old worlds, which is what I do in India — for example, I use traditional stitches that have been done for 3,000 years — but I do it with my version and I make them new. So the stitch art is exactly the same, but I’m using new materials. I sent leather into this laser company where they cut all those pieces for me like the tile. Then I sent them to India. You’re using all these different techniques from hand to laser to telephone; you’re making it fresh. It’s the time of social [media] and bloggers, and you have to keep up.
Speaking of social media, we spotted a lot of bloggers in your front row. What do you think is happening to the world of fashion because of social media?
Well, it’s becoming smaller. What you see at the moment gets out to that person in Korea or China or wherever she is in that [instant]. And fashion is moving at a very rapid pace. People can buy things very quickly. As a designer, you have to line up production accordingly. You need to be able to twist and turn and produce [no matter] how difficult or how complicated the garments are. You have to have it… be made in a very quick turnaround time. When I first started in the fashion industry, working for Halston, it used to be a shorter collection: it was very laid back, it used to take six to eight months for a collection to land in the store. Now, it’s just like, really, within weeks, or months. You need to be making moves.
It seems like many things we’re seeing this season are timeless. Is fabrication becoming season-less?
You see, with evening, the blur is a little less. If you’re going to a summer function in New York, you can wear a little black dress. So evening is a little tricky situation. But the fashion industry has certain things that people abide by that I find very funny. Like oh, after Labor Day, you can’t wear white pants. That’s so dumb! If it’s 90 degrees outside that doesn’t work for me. You have to just let it go. I don’t buy all of that and I just do what I feel like doing and people love it.
We’re loving all the flats in your collection! Talk to us a little about how to rock a flat in the evening, especially if you aren’t 5-foot-9.
Flats are not tricky, but you have to see the balance of stuff. When you look at yourself in the mirror, the length of your skirt, you need to see if it works with the flats or not. The fullness, the length, and the balance — you need to really take a look at that. There has to be a balance. I’m finding flats very cool and very interesting. The idea of taking something precious, like a beautiful gilded dress, and then putting it with flats — it’s like saying ‘I don’t give a damn. I’m cool. I’m hip. And I want to be how I want to be…relaxed and comfortable.’ I love that whole concept and that’s what we’re trying to bring this season.