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Passage to India: Naeem Khan talks about his fall collection and new best pal Matt Damon

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Naeem Khan opened his show with a black/silver/gold paisley metallic threadwork embroidered evening coat. Courtesy of Naeem Khan
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Naeem Khan acknowledges the audience after his runway show. Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week
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Kahn closed the show with a sterling silver pailette gown with open back.  It is heavy but wearable, he says. Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week
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Naeem Khan black/white abstract swirl print one-shoulder evening gown in basketweave silk Courtesy of Naeem Khan
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Naeem Khan gold swirl metallic threadwork embroidered trumpet gown Courtesy of Naeem Khan
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News_Naeem Khan_fall 2012 collection_Feb 2012
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News_Naeem Khan_fall 2012 collection_Feb 2012
News_Naeem Khan_fall 2012 collection_Feb 2012

NEW YORK — For Naeem Khan, it doesn't get much better than this. As the featured designer at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, he unveiled his fall 2012 collection in The Theater, the largest fashion space, before an audience that included his pal, Matt Damon, who was the best celebrity spotting during fashion week because it was so unexpected, along with GCB's Kristin Chenowith and Top Chef's Padma Lakshmi.

Kahn paid tribute to his home country of India, with a glittering collection based on the designs of body art, featuring paisley patterns embroidered with silver and gold threading, fabrics with delicate swirls and sequined scallop-pattered evening gowns evoking the image of peacock feathers.

 "India runs through my veins. My love for India keeps me constantly returning to it for inspiration. This time I was inspired by the idea that design can be created from gold or dust."

 After the show, Khan was mobbed by admirers. After I quickly congratulated him, we agreed to have an email conversation later after the hoopla quieted down. In addition to discussing the collection, he talked about his friendship with Damon and his upcoming Houston visit for a dinner with George Clooney.

CultureMap: What was it like showing your collection in such a large space before such a large audience?

Naeem Khan: I was honored to have been chosen by Mercedez-Benz. Showing in the The Theatre, the largest venue, was overwhelming but very exciting. I am thankful to my great team who works effortlessly to make the show happen. I love a good challenge and to design the space in terms of background, lighting and color scheme was inspiring. I loved showing in front of such a big audience and I think it will be my venue for future shows.

CM: There was no doubt that you drew upon your homeland of India for the theme. What story were you telling with the collection?

NK: India runs through my veins. My love for India keeps me constantly returning to it for inspiration. This time I was inspired by the idea that design can be created from gold or dust. The Sadhus and the people living in remote India create designs from the most basic elements such as dust, ash, chalk, lime, vermillion, etc.

Then you have the other side of India which is so opulent — pure gold, silver, diamonds and various forms of hand techniques are used to create the design. The royalty of India is a prime example of the decadence that is found in India.

Indian women decorate their foreheads with vermillion to signify marriage or coal to mar their beauty in order to protect themselves from the Evil Eye. I used the dot in my prints in a very abstract design. The body painting of the Sadhus was beaded and printed on silk and tulle.

CM: Of course, you featured plenty of evening gowns, which are a favorite of your Houston customers. How heavy is the final look — the showstopper sterling silver pailette gown?

NK: I love Houston; this collection had many gowns in it that are perfect for my Houston ladies. The finale gown was made in sterling silver metal sequins. The design is scallops from the peacock feather, which is a very symbolic bird in India; it was my sterling silver Bird of Paradise. It is heavy but wearable. It's a dress destined to make a bold and chic statement.

 "The finale gown was made in sterling silver metal sequins. It is heavy but wearable. It's a dress destined to make a bold and chic statement."

 CM: A lot of people were surprised to see Matt Damon in the front row since he has never attended a fashion show before (as far as I know). Why did he attend your show? Are you friends?

NK: I am so happy my friend Matt and his beautiful wife Luciana came to the show. Yes, it was his first fashion show and and he loved it. He came to the show to support me as a friend and I am so thankful. Matt and I are new friends. We recently met and vacationed on a friend's yacht in St. Barths.

CM: It seems that a lot of designers at fashion week, including you, are showing evening gowns with an exposed back. Why so you think that trend has developed?

NK: I have been showing open backs for the last few seasons. I love open back dresses. They are very flattering. The back is a very sensual part of a woman's body. The right amount of exposure is very sexy.

CM: With fashion week over, what are doing to relax?

NK: As a matter of fact I am sitting a the pool at Amangiri Resort in Utah as I write these answers. I love it here. It's very Zen and somwhere I can recharge before the next collection.

CM: Any plans to come to Houston in the near future?

NK: Of course, very soon. I'll be there to attend a dinner at Becca and John Thrash's home in honor of George Clooney (who will be in Houston May 3 for the Brilliant Lecture Series).

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