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Naeem Khan considers his legacy
Designer Naeem Khan, whose clothes have been worn by first ladies and several royal families, counts two major influences above all others: his father and the iconic American designer Halston.
Khan’s father, Sharfuddin Khan, was one of India’s most famous fashion designers in the 20th century. From him, Khan learned how to draw and got his first taste of the fashion world. Halston was Khan’s mentor when he came to the U.S., teaching him the practical art and skill of draping and garment construction. Now, more than 40 years after leaving home and 20 years after starting his eponymous brand, Khan said you can still see traces of both men’s influence in his work.
“The DNA of my father got entwined with what I learned from Halston,” Khan told Glossy at his studio in the Garment District, as he prepared for his 20th anniversary show on Tuesday. “And Halston loved the idea of taking what I knew from working with my father and combining it with the very modern way of working that he had, and we created something new from it.”
In 2020, Glossy spotted Ewan McGregor backstage at Khan’s February NYFW show. McGregor was preparing to play Halston in a Netflix show about the designer’s life, and Khan allowed the actor to shadow him backstage. The goal for McGregor was to learn more about the work of a designer and about Halston, who died in 1990. A year before, Khan participated in a documentary about Halston’s life. When asked if seeing his mentor’s legacy analyzed over the years affected how he thinks of his own legacy, Khan said it had made him more aware of what’s important.
“There are so many talented designers who are kind of shoved to the side because of bad financial decisions,” Khan said.
He was referring to how Halston slowly began to lose control of his brand after he sold it to Esmark Inc. in 1983. Over the next few years, Halston, the brand, had several different owners. Halston eventually found himself fighting for control of his namesake and being banned from releasing his own designs.
Khan said he’d rather do $5 million in sales but retain complete creative control of the brand — including designing and marketing it the way he wants to — than do $20 million in sales and be forced to give some of that up.
“I don’t want to go down that path,” Khan said. “I don’t to owe anything to anybody.”
The importance of versatility
One trend that emerged from the shows and presentations across the city on Monday was an emphasis on versatility.
Another Tomorrow showed off its latest, dance-inspired collection in a presentation at the Mercer Hotel on Monday afternoon. Among its leotard-esque silhouettes and Viscose dresses, creative director Elizabeth Giardina pointed out several pieces that leave room for the buyer to decide how best to wear it. That included a coat that could be cinched with a belt or worn loose, a short dress that could also double as a tunic, and a pair of pants featuring marks indicating where they could easily be cut to two shorter lengths. Giardina said, for her, a big part of style is making pieces your own. She wanted to avoid designing pieces that were restrictive in how they could be worn or that limited the customer’s creativity.
“I don’t want the clothes to feel like they’re styled for you,” Giardina said. “I don’t like things that come pre-styled or stuck together, with accessories attached to them. I’m the sort of designer where I like to see what people do with our clothes. And I actually think a lot of designers are like that. I believe in design for wearing, not just design for an image.”
At Tanner Fletcher, a similar sense of versatility and open-ended design was on display. The buzzy genderless brand was hosting its presentation just a block away, on Broadway.
Fletcher Kasell, who co-founded the brand with Tanner Richie after leaving Saint Laurent in 2020, said the brand’s previous collections were designed to form complete looks, rather than piece by piece. The two designers would create a series of full outfits, but that often left them with individual pieces that were impractical when separated from their complete look.
“For this collection, we designed piece by piece for the first time,” Kasell said. “We created every piece so that it could stand alone. And then two days before the shoot, we mashed them all together to create looks.”
In addition, as both Kasell and Richie are avid thrifters, they wanted each piece to read like a hidden treasure that could be found in the racks of a thrift store.
“We wanted people to see a piece and bring their own personality to it, and know how they could fit it into their own style and wardrobe,” Kasell said.
There are two more official days of NYFW with some big-name shows still in store. Tory Burch is showing later tonight, Gabriella Hearst and Brandon Maxwell have shows tomorrow, and on Wednesday, Michael Kors, Badgley Mischka and Markarian will close out the calendar.
Later this week, we’ll have a special NYFW episode of the Glossy Week in Review podcast. Plus, look for our coverage from the rest of fashion month in London, Milan and Paris in the weeks ahead.