The inimitable Narciso Rodriguez is not only the czar of the clean line or the minimalist master who knows how to embrace a feminine curve like no other, he is also one of the most charming designers I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Not to mention a trailblazer and record-breaker who proves that strong and steady wins the race.
The Newark, New Jersey native and Parsons graduate got his start at Anne Klein in 1985 before moving on to Calvin Klein, where he met his muse and best friend, Carolyn Bessette (he would go on to design her much-imitated wedding dress). His namesake line made it’s Milan debut in October 1997; four years later, he established his atelier in New York City and went on to become the first designer to receive two consecutive Womenswear Designer of the Year awards from CFDA (in 2002 and 2003). Indeed, Narciso has never been a one-season wonder. Famously gimmick-free, when everyone else is preoccupied whipping up theatrics for their runways, he shows his savvy collections in a quiet space, letting his designs speak for themselves – and stir up the drama in the process. He applies color-blocking, as well as menswear fabrics like no one else in the business, and takes delight in worshipping the hourglass silhouette – and in return, women worship his fantastically flattering, acutely intelligent clothes. I sat down with fashion’s resident king of minimalist-chic to discover what inspires him and even invited myself over for a home-cooked dinner (Yes, Narciso cooks, too!). See what he had to say, then take a look at his new bags and shoes!
You originally were interested in architecture before fashion. What caused you to make the transition at Parsons? Architecture has always been a fascination of mine. I thought it would be my career path. By the time I went to high school and enrolled at Parsons to take a course in fashion, I knew that fashion would be my path instead of architecture. In many ways, architecture IS the foundation of my fashion work.
You had experiences with Anne Klein & Calvin Klein early on in your career. How did your work with them shape the designer you are today? When I was a teen I had two dreams, one was to go to Parsons School of Design and one was to work with Donna Karan. Fortunately, both of those dreams came true. Working with Donna at Anne Klein was an amazing experience. She is a great designer in so many ways. Her vision, passion, fabric knowledge and draping skills were so influential. At Calvin too, I was so fortunate to work directly with him and a team of people who would become friends for life. Calvin has such a great talent for finding talent and making things happen. He has such a strong vision, obsessed with every detail and is a brilliant perfectionist. It was a great school for a young designer.
Similarly, you worked as the head designer of Loewe from 1997-2001. What impact has that had on your own line? Working at Loewe, which is part of LVMH, was a great experience in that I learned so much about accessories–– their quality and craftsmanship. They are truly the best when it comes to the production of leather goods.
Do you think your initial interest in architecture formed your take on fashion design? Absolutely! Architecture continues to be one of my biggest influences. Every seam and detail is carefully considered, much the same way an architect would think about construction and materials.
What/Who were your biggest influences when you first started out? How have they evolved over the years? Architecture for sure, film, art, photography, and ultimately people watching. For many years I would sketch each morning at a cafe in the East Village while watching people go to work. It’s fascinating to see what people choose to wear and how they put themselves together. Photographing these people and the urban environment is a great inspiration for my work.
You have said Carolyn Bessette Kennedy will always be your muse. Do you still reap inspiration from her or design with specific women in mind? Carolyn will always be an inspiration. She had such a great sense of style that was all her own. One rarely sees that kind of style.
What has been the pinnacle moment of your career to date? Designing the wedding dress that Carolyn Bessette wore to marry John F. Kennedy Jr.
How do you keep your designs so effortlessly fresh? I search for new ways to work and seek out different kinds of inspiration. My work continues to change and evolve because change is what keeps me excited about the work.
What do you see on your horizon? I am enjoying the best part of my career and am exploring new opportunities for my company. It has been exciting to work on the launch of bags and shoes and it is a great time to continue that momentum.
If I were coming over for dinner, what would you cook for me? (Full disclosure: this will be in print and I will hold you to it!) I would make you Cuban pot roast. A great family recipe and a classic.
What is the last thing you do before going to bed each night? Get my 3 dogs into their own beds and tell them good night.
What made you laugh the last time you did? The movie, Frances Ha. Very cute and very funny.
Coffee or tea? Espresso!
What’s your favorite cocktail? Dirty Belvedere martini, up with olives
What’s one item you cannot live without/what book are you reading now? My sketchbook