The Homecoming

Naeem Khan will introduce his label in India with his upcoming show in Mumbai.

At an age when most of his contemporaries either buried themselves in books or sought a heady rush from a game of cricket, Naeem Khan would quietly withdraw into his grandfather Shamshuddin Khan's Colaba workshop, lured by the colourful fabrics, spools of threads, beads and sequins. His father Sharifuddin Khan's expertise too lay in fine embroidery. "While I did spend time with friends, nothing quite matched the excitement I felt while watching him create beautiful outfits," says the 54-year-old.

Khan's childlike curiosity and enthusiasm can perhaps be credited for his success today as a prominent international fashion designer. Sent by his father to the US to study fashion at the Fashion Institute of Technology, he dropped out before completing his degree. But Khan's work was noticed at Halston, the fashion house. Reminiscing about the early days, he emphasises, "I learnt a lot by simply being there and observing others work." His designs also reflect an understanding of the global woman. "The clean silhouettes that celebrate the female form are my USP," he says.

This understanding is seen in his resume and his vast clientele — US First Lady Michelle Obama wore his creation, a gold-and-crème sheath dress with silver accents, to the state dinner hosted by the White House for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2009. "It was undoubtedly the biggest moment in my life and it changed something within me, egging me on to move forward with renewed vigour," says Khan.

The designer's popularity — both in the US and elsewhere — has been on the upswing ever since. Actors such as Penelope Cruz and Nicole Richie, as well as pop icon Lady Gaga, have often turned to him to dress them for public outings. While he refuses to reveal names, one can expect a few Hollywood stars to walk the Oscars red carpet in the designer's creations this weekend.

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