Gabriela Billini is a non-native New Yorker who travels the world to understand why people wear what they wear and how. She is an independent fashion reporter, trend chaser, and self-proclaimed beatnik.

Naeem Khan: The Summer 2016 Interview

I was privileged to catch up with Naeem backstage after his wonderfully modern and varied Spring 2017 bridal show.

As a double Naeem Khan / Roy Halston fan (and if you haven’t yet heard Naeem’s wonderful anecdotes of Studio 54 and his time with Roy in the Ultrasuede documentary, you really should), this was a true treat.

The Interview

Q: As modern brides seek more modern designs for such a special day — but still want to feel like themselves — what has been your way of modernizing such a traditional garment?

It’s a very important moment in her life. Everybody is there and she is presenting herself to the world.

I think what is modern is a classic shape that is tweaked to the times. What is happening today? It’s the poet sleeve, the way the halter is made, or it’s dropped down; that’s what makes it modern.

Also what makes it modern is the fabrication that is used. If I were to make it in some cloth just not right for the times, then it would not look modern. So what makes it modern is the technique I used, and the fabrics. Although it’s the shape that I tweak, my shapes are still classic. That classic cut lasts for a very long time. I do believe that when you see those pictures 80 years later, you don’t want to look at yourself and say “OMG I was so trendy” and look terrible. Trendy to me is tacky.

When you see those pictures 80 years later, you don’t want to look at yourself and say “OMG I was so trendy.”

Doha
Doha

Q: When the Doha dress — look number 21 — emerged, I have to say you took us straight to India in the embroidery. Is that where you immediately went?

Totally. You look at it and it’s the shape of the dome. It’s inspired directly from my mother’s saris. There is no denying that connection and it lives in everything I do.

It’s inspired directly from my mother’s saris.

Q: As we all know, you were an assistant to the legendary Roy Halston Frowick. What is your opinion on the attempts to bring back the Halston line and what are some of the inherent challenges in trying to reproduce Halston’s signature style?

It’s a big, big challenge.

Halston was a brand made by a man who was larger than life. Fashion is more than just making clothes. Fashion is also a part of the person and the personality. As a designer, his lifestyle, the people that are around him made the brand. He had Liza [Minnelli], Elizabeth Taylor. That is an essential part of the brand — apart from his talent of course.

Halston was a brand made by a man who was larger than life.

I have so many celebrities who wear my clothes. Celebrities make my brand, and the celebrities and I have a relationship. If today I were dead and gone, it would be very hard to reinvent these things.

Halston is a big challenge because he was an incredible personality and the way he designed within that simplicity was still very, very complex. If you don’t know that, it’s not just one element, it’s the whole program.

Celebrities make my brand, and the celebrities and I have a relationship.

Q: Thank you, Naeem!

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