Fashion / Style

Naeem Khan Swoops Into Houston For a Rodeo Romp With the Champagne Cowgirls and More

A Fashion Force Draws a Crowd at Neiman Marcus

BY // 03.19.22

With his first trip to Houston in five years, Naeem Khan was thrilled to be back in the Lone Star State. Besides showing his full 68-piece fall collection at a luncheon in the Neiman Marcus couture department and catching up with Bayou City pals, he and his team were elated to receive front row seats for the Houston Livestock Show, courtesy of Kristina and Paul Somerville. Kristina is a member of the Champagne Cowgirls, the glam group of rodeo supporters honored at the luncheon.

“I’ve never been to the Rodeo and I’m so excited,” Khan says. “Rodeo is so America.”

But for once, the tables were turned as the 63-year-old designer worried about what he would wear and planned to do a little shopping for rodeo attire after the luncheon ended.

After two years of keeping close to his New York home base because of the pandemic, Khan is on the road again.

“It’s so fantastic meeting clients, talking to them about clothes and understanding what they want,” he says. “I like coming to Houston because I have such an intimate relationship with the city. I know many of the women who wear my clothes.”

Among Houstonians who turned out to greet Khan were Hallie Vanderhider, Kristina Somerville (clad in western attire), Lesha Elsenbrook, Letitia and Steve Trauber, Neiman Marcus general manager Chris Hendel, Lesha Elsenbrook, Zinat Ahmed, Tara Martin, Susan Plank, Ceron, Elia Gabbanelli, Kathy McCord, Sarah McCord, Linda Kuykendall, Jennifer Torres, Cindy Hanan, Pam Stallones and Leigh Hays.

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Naeem Khan luncheon at Neiman Marcus
Zinat Ahmed, Tara Martin (Photo by Johnny Than)

Known for creating glamorous sequined evening gowns, colorful embroidered caftans and sparkly jumpsuits that exude the spirit of his mentor, the legendary designer Halston, Khan was at first worried that his current creations were out of step with a post pandemic world.

“I was afraid that people were going to get used to that whole loungewear living, but I find my business has almost doubled, tripled this year,” he says. “And the main reason is this: Women realize that life is important, life is about happiness. Life is about looking good and sharing this journey.

“They want to look fabulous, they want to dress up, they want to go out and celebrate life. And my clothes are all about celebration because COVID made us realize that life hangs by a skinny thread.”

Just about everything in his collection is selling well now, Khan notes, “from stretch sequins to very, very expensive evening wear. I find that women are doing smaller events but spending money on looking fabulous with beautiful jewelry and glamorous clothes. They are spending more money on looking individually beautiful and curtailing it somewhere else.”

Naeem Khan Expands

Getting through the pandemic with his business intact, Naeem Khan is now expanding into accessories. Last fall, the entertainment and lifestyle giant Roc Nation signed an exclusive agreement with Khan to become the designer’s exclusive global licensing agency and expand his brand into new product categories.  They recently signed a deal with seventh-generation Indian jeweler Sanjay Kasliwal to produce a line of Naeem Khan jewelry available in stores next year, and a new line of shoes and scarves are on the way, too.

“I worked for Halston and my family have been making beautiful glamorous fabric for three generations over 100 years, so I want to keep the name of the brand in the arena of high-end, beautiful glamorous clothes that I am known for — and never give up that vision,” Khan says. “But of course you can have other fingers to the brand.”

On a personal level, Khan is launching a new series of art pieces in collaboration with contemporary artist Stanley Casselman. The collection is inspired by conversations Khan had with art icon Andy Warhol during the time he worked for Halston in the late ’70s when he was a fresh-faced 19-year-old from India who didn’t realize at the time what a magical situation he was in.

“Warhol and I used to have these conversations (musing on) why can’t glamour be part of art on the wall?,” Khan recalls. “As friendly as Halston and Warhol were, they were so jealous of each other. I was an employee of Halston and he didn’t want me involved with Warhol. So I was restricted from working with him.

“But Warhol and I would always talk about making things by hand that I did for Halston and he would paint and we would collaborate the way he did with Basquiat. But we never did.”

With time on his hards from the pandemic shutdown, Khan worked with Castle for eight months to create a technique using embroidered sequins and paint scraped on canvas in different ways, producing 9-foot-high paintings of three-dimensional flowers. They have already sold four of the paintings for $250,000 each and will have a showing of their work in San Francisco next month.

“I think this is going to be my next chapter,” Khan says.

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