Going it alone
Keen to stake out his own turf, Naeem opened his own studio in Beverly Hills. “It was a success and I made my first million dollars when I was 24,’’ says Naeem, whose dresses sell for upwards of $2,000 (Dh7,345 ).
Ask Naeem about the fashion design process, and he says it always starts with a fantasy born from the imagination or the influences around you. “I design everything from the fabric to the embroidery to the shape of the dress. From start to finish, it can take about 400 to 600 people on two continents to put a collection together.”
Naeem loves making customised fantasies for his clients: Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo! wanted a wedding dress inspired by snowflakes. He created a one-of-a-kind dress for her using embroidery, layers of textures, feathers, paisleys and pearls. In a wedding dress for Cassandra Huysentruyt who married Brad Grey, chairman of Paramount Pictures, he even embroidered the lining of the dress with hand-cut rose petals.
“We think of everything! On another wedding dress we had poetry on the lining, so that once the dress is removed, one could read the verses. These one of-a-kind dresses are absolutely magical.”
Naeem designs for strong women, and so his dresses tend to be assertive but he points out that as a designer, he understands personalities and recognises how much power to give the dress. “The dress doesn’t have to wear you; you have to wear the dress. If you look at Michelle – even though the dress was very strong – she had it in her control. She really carried that dress fabulously – she was like the Queen of America.”
Naeem’s creation for Lady Gaga was a one-shoulder gown in a dramatic print that the Queen of Pop wore when she toured India in 2011. It was much talked about and underscored his talents.
Says the designer: “You have to work hard and you have to realise nothing will be handed to you. You have to make things happen for you.
“My grandfather made all the embroideries, now they are made by my father and his brothers in India. My sons will be the fourth generation in the business.”