NAEEM KHAN & LINDA FARGO

NAEEM KHAN & LINDA FARGO

FADE IN:

INT. NAEEM KHAN STUDIO, THE GARMENT DISTRICT, NEW YORK CITY — MORNING

NAEEM KHAN sits beneath a giant self-portrait hanging behind his desk. Sunlight illuminates his penthouse office in midtown Manhattan, where bolts of intricate fabrics are propped up against an exposed brick wall. A pair of tiny Australian Shepherds freely roam the room. 

CUT TO:

LINDA FARGO enters, and NAEEM rises to greet her. He motions to a white chair next to his own, and the two sit down beside each other.

NAEEM
Fashion aside, you and I became instant friends.

LINDA
I’ve become a part of your family, but my favorite moments with you are dinners, cooked by you, at your home. Parties are great, vacations are lovely, but nothing is more of an honor than to spend quiet downtime with you, your wife, and your children.

NAEEM
We spend so much time together, I really see you as my sister.

LINDA
But your reputation for incredible embroidery preceded all that: I first heard about you from [the designer] Maggie Norris, who told me about a dress you did with embroidered lips, almost like Man Ray’s. And then I ran into you and [your wife] Ranjana at Indochine [in New York City]. You introduced yourself, and we put it all together.

NAEEM
That was a while back.

LINDA
A long time ago, before I went to your breakout runway show at Sotheby’s. Which I’ll never forget, because you showed a plunging, gray-taupe cashmere dress and I was sitting next to Somers Farkas — a tall drink of water — who is the only woman I know that could’ve properly worn it. You’d been working for many, many years before that show, but it was your big moment with a whole new tier of clients.

NAEEM
That was my first exposure to the New York elite. I remember [former Bergdorf Goodman CEO] Jim Gold asking, “How do you know all these ladies?” And I replied, “I don’t, really.” My family has been in fashion for close to one hundred years — my grandfather started making fabrications for the royal families and socialites of India — and, as a boy, I always dreamt of being in America. My only exposure to it was through magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.

LINDA
I remember you saying you came here to tag along on a business trip with your father, and he went to show Halston some swatches. During the meeting, Halston turned to you and asked, “So young man, what are you here for?”

NAEEM
I was planning to go to school, but while explaining what I learned about textile design from my family to Halston, he turned to my father and said, “I need Naeem to come work for me. He’s not going to school.” My dad wasn’t so sure, but I knew I needed to be there.

LINDA
I mean, honestly. Halston was absolutely five-star platinum. That’s like going to the top right away. What could be a more valuable education than working in the hottest design house in New York [at the time]?

NAEEM
In my first month with him I was out and about at Studio 54, hanging out with Elizabeth Taylor, Liza Minelli —

LINDA
Andy Warhol —

NAEEM
Warhol would teach me how to draw. He taught me how to think out of the box.

LINDA
I was not so lucky to arrive in New York City and have my first job be at Halston. I came in the ‘80s, and worked at Macy’s at first. I loved it because that store was like a miniature world of its own. It had about 22 floors — only nine were shoppable, but there were basements, sub-basements, sub-sub-basements. People of every nationality. I had to mobilize all of these rough and tough tradesmen as a polite, new girl from Wisconsin.

NAEEM
Learning how to manage starts when you’re growing up. I remember you telling me how you took care of your brothers and sisters back home.

LINDA
I got sharp, fast. But it was a great time. Back then, you could practically count the number of designers in New York City — like Calvin Klein, Bill Blass, Geoffrey Beene — on two hands. Now I have about 85 different designer shows and presentations to go to each season.

NAEEM
You see tons of amazing things. It must be a tough position to be in to decide what makes the cut.

LINDA
There’s a lot of pretty good stuff, there really is. But exceptional? Fortunately, that’s rare. Last year, believe it or not, Bergdorf Goodman added about forty to fifty new brands between jewelry, shoes, lingerie, and all levels of ready-to-wear. When we do business with somebody, we do it very long-sightedly. I always say it’s like a marriage. We’re not there just for one hot date [laughs].

NAEEM
My business with you guys has grown at an amazing pace. We’ve been together for a very long time.

LINDA
Something like 10 to 12 years. And how about our collaborations for the store’s holiday windows? I can list all of your incredible pieces, like the girl in the mirrored dress who sat on a flying elephant —

NAEEM
That dress weighed a hundred kilos!

LINDA
You had the girl in the golden cage.

NAEEM
Right! And how about the Halloween one, with all the feathers and the human hair coming out from the arms.

LINDA
The holidays at Bergdorfs wouldn’t be the same without you.

NAEEM
I’m so thankful for where I am today, but people tend to think that being a designer is always glamorous. There’s tons of work and so much pressure, from retailers, the press, and even oneself. I’ve wanted to throw in the towel at times.

LINDA
The creative muscle is like any other muscle: the more you use it, the more in tune it is. Because yours is so fired up, you can force yourself to buckle down and begin to knock out whatever collection is next. A younger, greener person couldn’t do that.

NAEEM
Still, there are a lot of sleepless nights. But this country has given me an amazing life and I’ve always wanted to give back in return. I know an art — making beautiful embroideries by hand — and I want to train people here to do it. So last year, I approached the mayor of the city of Miami about opening a state-of-the-art facility, with hundreds of employees, that would produce every one of my wedding and evening dresses by hand in the United States. And he loved the idea.

LINDA
Miami has always been well known as the location for a lot of shoots, but the actual fashion industry itself isn’t alive and well there yet.

NAEEM
Art Basel people come and go. Photographers and models, too. The city’s industry needs consistency and that’s exactly what I’m going to bring. I acquired the land last December, on Christmas Day, and recently started designing the space with [local firm] Arquitectonica. We should start breaking ground by the end of 2015.

LINDA
I saw a sneak peek of the architects’ rendering and I thought they nailed it on their first try.

NAEEM
It’s going to be amazing. My headquarters will move to Miami; I’ll manage from there but my main office for sales, public relations, and shows will remain in New York.

LINDA
You’re not just a fashion designer — you design spaces infused with joy, color, and a certain flare that is so you. Whenever I have a really important event to attend, I immediately think ‘Naeem Khan’ because your clothes are the most sensational. Like the cape that was based on a Schiaparelli design, with the Fountain of Neptune embroidery on the back, that I wore to the opening of the Prada and Schiaparelli exhibition at the 2012 Met Gala.

NAEEM
There aren’t many people who can carry certain pieces I design. The way you do your hair, the jewels you pair with them… you know how to make it happen.

LINDA
It’s perfectly symbiotic. I can’t do it without you, and you can’t do it without me!

CREDITS

Photography byPJ Spaniol III

Conversation moderated byAnthony Rotunno

Naeem Khan is the designer of Naeem Khan. The current ready-to-wear and bridal collections are available online and at select retailers.
Linda Fargo is the senior vice president of the fashion office and the store presentation director at Bergdorf Goodman.

Did you see? Bergdorf Goodman’s Betty Halbreich takes The Thick Questionnaire, fashion editor and designer, Karla Martinez de Salas & Thakoon Panichgul, talk criticism and how they cope with an ever-accelerating industry.

THE END