I had never heard of Naeem Khan until Tuesday October 23. The moment his name was mentioned as designer of First Lady Michelle Obama’s gold coloured sequined dress, which she wore for The Obamas first state dinner, the internet hummed with searches, myself included. Others, like me, who had never heard of him, wanted to see the face of the Indian immigrant who had designed and created fashion history with the now famous dress.
What is special about Naeem Khan? A lot I didn’t know. He designed the costumes in the hit movie Dreamgirls using titanium so they could cling lovingly to the bodies of the wearers. And Queen Noor of Jordan and such celebrities as Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, Taylor Swift, Zooey Deschanel, Katherine Heigl, Carrie Underwood, Kim Catrall, Brooke Sheilds have worn his creations.
When he was approached for the Dreamgirls gig, Naeem, was given a copy of the script and asked to create dresses for two scenes. One was the finale, the last scene of the show. He made the dresses out of gold and titanium, and that’s what gave them the beautiful sheen. That was a gold star in his blooming career.
Khan was born in Mumbai, India. He learned design and dress making while working with his father and grandfather in the family’s shop. They were well know for designing regal and fashionable gowns for royal families and socialites in India. His family owned many clothing factories. Regal clothing is their trade mark. The business has survived three generations. “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,” he said.
When he was 20, Khan migrated to the United States of America and began an apprenticeship with renowned fashion house Halston, who incidentally, sponsored him to become an American citizen. From there he moved on to Riazee. And in 2003, he launched his own collection which included tailored cocktail suits, embroidered caftans and glamourous dresses. His label is carried in more than 200 stores throughout the United States of America, including Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Khan learned construction and fundamentals of designs at Halston. Such a craft, he said, cannot be taught in any school. “It comes from within, and trial and error.”
In October he started marketing his creations on the Home Shopping Network (HSN) . The collection includes dresses under $300. Khan’s aim is to build his business into a multi-million dollar empire.
The day after the White House state dinner, Naeem Khan, was the third most Googled name in America. He thought it was unbelievable. Khan, 50, was stunned when he stepped out of his bathroom and saw the First Lady Michelle Obama wearing his creation on television.
He said the dress and his training at Halston are what defines him as a fashion designer. “With the clean lines I learned from Halston and complicated Indian over-the-top Bollywood traditions,” he has earned a top spot among some of the most famous fashion designers in America.
Khan likes to use beads, sequins and embroidery in his creations. His work is so delicate that he sometimes have to use a surgical needle to stitch sequins and beads.