December 5, 2022
When Naeem Khan, now 64, was growing up in India, he would often find himself going off to the jungle with a bow and arrow he had made himself, picking berries, and playing around with his friends. But he also had a gift: his father and grandfather had come from a long line of craftspeople who had clothed Indian royals, and he was obsessed with art and storytelling. As his father grew his export business, first by moving to Bombay and then by meeting with designers in the U.S., a fateful dinner with famed American designer Halston earned Khan an apprenticeship.
It wouldn’t take long before he would break away to launch his own brand, named after his mother Razia, in Los Angeles. The problem was: he lost all his money. He would hold onto these lessons — and the lessons from his father and grandfather — as he moved back to New York City, starting anew, with a new business partner in tow. “I’ve stuck to my craft. That’s one of the reasons, because of the importance it holds in my family — and made them who they are and made me who I am,” Khan said. The new brand would be called Naeem Khan.
The rest, as they say, is history. Today, Khan has dressed everyone from Michelle Obama to Jennifer Lopez to Mindy Kaling. He’s known for the glitziness and glamour of his dresses, from a slinky black number Kaling wore to a gala at the Academy Museum to a metallic dress Kate Beckinsale donned as the showstopper for Khan’s most recent New York Fashion Week just this past fall. And he’s equally known for his bold colors, from bright yellows to neon greens.
From the outside looking in, Naeem Khan has made it. But Khan is never satisfied. He’s still dreaming up ways to evolve his business — from lowering prices to make his designs more affordable to inking a deal with a superstar for a new ready-to-wear line to considering a launch in India. We sat down with the designer, who splits his time between Miami and New York, to chat about what’s next for his eponymous brand.