NYFW: Naeem Khan Practices Wishcraft

Naeem Khan NYFW - P 2016
Getty Images

Naeem Khan NYFW - P 2016

The designer is making dreams come true on and off the runway this season.

Who was the real star at Naeem Khan’s show on Wednesday afternoon? Trinity Faith Moran, an 11-year-old fifth-grader from Fort Worth, Texas, wore a sweet full-length dress in strawberry-red beaded tulle as she walked the runway with the designer during the finale of his fall 2016 collection. The moment was coordinated via the Make-A-Wish Foundation, as Moran was diagnosed last year with Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer, and will undergo surgery in five weeks.

“Rarely does a designer grant a wish during his or her actual show,” noted Mary Alice Stephenson, the stylist for Khan’s show and Make-A-Wish’s national fashion ambassador and founder of the Glam4Good campaign. “But Naeem has such a big heart and has been supportive of Make-A-Wish for years. He didn’t even blink; he just said, ‘Let’s do it.’ That’s rare in this industry.”

Moran received the A-list treatment both backstage and at Khan’s studio the day before, where the pair collaborated to create her dress. “She loves fashion so much, and he got down on the floor with her, listened to her and started sketching ideas,” said Kimberly Rasmus, Trinity’s mother. “They drew three different designs together and talked about what would look good on her. It was beyond our wildest dreams.”

Such a commitment is all the more impressive when you look at the hours of handwork and production that went into Khan’s latest collection. You always know you’re going to view exceptional beading and embroidery in this show, but for fall 2016, Khan went next-level with his luxe factor, sending out lushly embellished pieces, appliqués on velvet gowns with cutaway details or gold-bullion threadwork on a jacket, all inspired by the city he calls home.

ART DECO DIVAS: Looks from Naeem Kahn's fall 2016 show. (Photo: Getty Images)

“I have such a fascination with architecture, so Art Deco played a very important role,” Khan told Pret-a-Reporter before the show. “When you look at iconic New York buildings, they’re so decorative; they look like my work. And then you look at all the grand ladies of New York of the ‘20s and ‘30s. That grandeur was a great inspiration.”

A group of gold dresses and gowns that finished the show also highlighted this idea, with some featuring graphic beading that evoked thoughts of the Chrysler Building. Elsewhere the metallics were softer, such as the floral-embroidered cocktail dress in gunmetal, or the ballgowns that shimmered with beaded gold lace. A few pieces, meanwhile, allowed the construction to shine, including a great cutaway gown and cape in ruby crepe.

Hair and makeup by Jon Reyman of Aveda and Gato of Maybelline, meanwhile, kept the looks from feeling too staid or expected. “How do you create drama?” Khan asked. “To me, I don’t want something simple; give me something unusual. We looked at Marie Antoinette and we looked at geishas, and then [Reyman] spent an evening designing this hair. We’re not trying to make her into this fine lady. She can be a fine lady in real life, but when you look at this, there’s an edge.”

Stephenson agreed. “Naeem likes to empower a woman who’s wearing his clothes, while also thinking about how it feels modern and sensual,” she said. “This collection is over the top and it is beading beyond; when I first saw it, I kept saying, ‘I want to wear that, I want to wear that,’ and so on. I’m a great barometer for him. But what’s so great is that he also understands a woman’s body; these pieces are all on a bunch of models, but his clothes fit women of all shapes and sizes.”

The latter idea is among the reasons Khan is sought after for red carpets, with fans including Christina Hendricks and Connie Britton. “I want to make glamorous clothes, of course, but for real women, women who have shape,” he noted. “Predominantly my clothes are also classic; I design for royalty, the who’s who of the world. So anyone who exudes an air of class and style in Hollywood, my clothes work well on them.”

They also work well on little girls who dream of walking the runway in a high-wattage fashion show. “At the end of the day, fashion doesn’t mean anything without heart,” said Stephenson. “Today you see the passion that drives Naeem in his work, but his heart is on display as well.”