When Indian-born Naeem Khan left New York for Miami after over 30 years in the city, many (myself included) were surprised. Miami and New York are polar opposites; the people, weather, and style are completely different. Khan, a longtime New Yorker, manages to be perfectly at ease in Miami. A catch up with the womenswear designer, whose breathtaking gowns have conquered red carpets across the globe, at his Miami penthouse reveals a designer at ease as he takes a much needed pause after his successful Autumn/Winter 17 collection showed at New York Fashion Week last month.
“The showroom keeps calling me with updates about the orders that are pouring in; they’re telling me ‘Naeem you will not believe how many orders we’re getting!’” It’s hardly surprising given the level of detail and character Khan imbues in each of his garments. With a staff of over 30 already working for him, Khan has his sights on doubling his business this year and moving one step closer towards completing his business move from New York to Miami, and he plans to oversee all of it from his modern Miami penthouse.
Located in the heart of the city, next to the late Zaha Hadid’s upcoming construction (she was a friend of Khan’s), his penthouse is the epitome of functional modernity. Decorated in white and black with occasional accents of colour, the penthouse is the product of Khan’s vision for a “glamorous nest.” Much of the furniture is entirely custom handmade by artisans in Khan’s team in India with Khan himself designing everything from the sliding mirrored doors of his room to the bathroom vanities. Even the large chandelier in his living room is from India and modeled after the famous ones of the Nizam royalty. In addition to the large amounts of glass and mirrored surfaces, Khan and his wife have peppered the home with a mix of artwork. Recently acquired paintings from the Cuban Biennale mix with pieces from artists Khan mentions were friends, including Andy Warhol and Ilse Getz.
Hand-painted wood panels from an antique ceiling in Rajasthan. Photography by Andres Hernandez
Since both of his sons have gotten married, Khan and his jewellery designer wife, Ranjana, chiefly inhabit the expansive 5,100 square foot residence with Khan taking the lead on decorating. “There’s never an argument,” he says. “She lets me do what I want.” Khan purchased the penthouse online from Sotheby’s when he was at a trunk show in Texas. “This was my pied-à-terre here,” says the designer. “Will I like Miami or not? We found out we love it.” After purchasing the penthouse, Khan quickly set to work on renovating the space with the goal of having it be as open as possible; he removed as many walls as he could and replaced the more traditional layout for one with free-flowing spaces without sacrificing the level of privacy. Spread across three levels, with an infrared sauna and private rooftop pool and patio on the topmost level, the penthouse features three bedrooms each with its own breathtaking view of Miami. In addition to their uninterrupted vision of the city, both guest rooms have their own art, including a custom print of Elizabeth Taylor by Iranian photographer Firooz Zahedi. Khan admits to sometimes sleeping in the guest room when he’s alone at home, and after taking in the view, I can’t blame him.
Even though their sons have now got married and remained in New York, Khan and his wife are hardly lonely. With a large network of friends and colleagues, the designer has become an expert host, and his Miami guests range from Bergdorf’s Linda Fargo, who he says is a frequent visitor and like family, to actors Matt Damon and Chris Hemsworth. And as if a killer eye for womenswear and interior decorating isn’t enough, Khan is also a fan of cooking. He loves to experiment in the kitchen and marked his personal move to Miami with an exclusive dinner for the who’s who of the city.
Khan’s custom handmade mirrored doors from India. Photography by Andres Hernandez
Khan has made his mark on Miami. With a robust social life, that includes his close friend and fashion icon Iris Apfel, and a 70,000 square foot construction that will house his business, the Khans have become a fixture in Miami. One that the city is lucky to have especially since it has struggled to acquire any serious fashion talent; something it acknowledged with a favorable term on his real estate deal to encourage Khan’s investment in the city.
Khan walks me through his extensive library which features a series of vintage hand painted South Indian deities along the back wall when we pause because India and Raja, Khan’s pair of mini-Australian shepherd puppies, make a break for the front door while barking at the top of their lungs. Khan laughs, “and you thought they were quiet!” He opens the door to a team of contractors who are here to work on updates to his rooftop patio. “It’s a shame we have to shoot now because my chairs are supposed to arrive later,” he says. “They’re custom hand-made beach chairs from Brazilian IPE wood. I’m creating an entire lifestyle out here,” Khan says gesturing to the patio that’s been marked off with blue tape. He’s a bit of a perfectionist, constantly making improvements to the space and redecorating, but like his clothes, nothing strays far from his modern aesthetic or Indian roots. Approaching the decoration of his home in the same way he approaches designing his collection, Khan makes his focus clear. “You look at the room as a body; it’s the same thing,” says the designer. “How much colour you put [and how] things fit.” Consistency is key, and in this case, Khan has nailed it – once again.