Naeem Khan's bold, intricately embellished couture, favored by the likes of Michelle Obama, Sarah Jessica Parker and Beyoncé, radiates an opulent brand of glamour. But the evening wear and wedding dress wizard also has a knack for home design, and his Miami penthouse perfectly expresses the dynamism for which he is known.
When the Manhattan-based sartorialist bought a second home in the Magic City's arts and entertainment district in 2008, he says, it was "totally on an impulse." The 4,500-square-foot, glass-walled, three-bedroom triplex was a raw space then, but looking out over Biscayne Bay from the apartment's 48th-floor roof deck, he knew that its bones were special. "You just feel like you're flying," he describes. "It's like a glass box up in the sky." The Mumbai native also felt an affinity with the city's tropical setting and immigrant-driven arts-and-crafts culture.
For him, the apartment space is analogous more to a model than to a garment. "My apartment I see as a body," he says, explaining that he views it as a neutral stage for an evolving wardrobe of decor. His design goals, therefore, were minimalism, openness and transparency.
He laid down wide-plank, warm-toned oak floors and installed crisp white walls and ceilings. "I'm so used to color in my fashion that I wanted something a little different," he explains. "Sometimes having too much color around you can be overwhelming. White is an I-can-think color."
To create an open kitchen, he knocked out the walls between the tiny old kitchen, closets and former bathroom. "I cook," Khan says. "I wanted it to be a big kitchen where I can entertain." The kitchen flows into a lofty living room, whose 20-foot ceiling is anchored by an 11-foot-high chandelier that Khan commissioned from the Crystal Shop in Delhi, to evoke the 19th-century F&C Osler chandeliers that grace the palaces of India.
The sparkling pièce de résistance catches the glint of bubbly that Khan likes to pour for guests. He is a longtime devotee of Krug Champagne, especially the Grande Cuvée, first made in the mid-19th century and released annually as a blend of 10 or more harvests, with grapes from 120 different base wines, according to Krug. Khan is fascinated by the history of it, of a winery with vines that predate Marie Antoinette.
He has even begun hosting occasional Krug dinners for admirers of his fashion label. The first was at Francis Mallman's Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence winner Los Fuegos in March 2016. Alinea chef Grant Achatz cooked, and the invite list included friends like Tommy Hilfiger.
When Khan entertains at home, he says, "Wine sets the pace." He stores 300 of his 1,000 total bottles in Miami (the rest are in his New York loft), and he often pulls a Champagne to start or end the meal. His home cooking shows a prodigious global range, from American to Italian to Indian to Thai to Iranian. Peppery, juicy Zinfandels work beautifully with his richly spiced Indian dishes; he is particularly fond of The Prisoner's namesake Zinfandel blend. "It's a great big wine, and I love that," he says. Bold Napa Cabernets from Pahlmeyer, Cakebread and Duckhorn make appearances, and selections from Tuscany and Bordeaux round out his favorites.
Khan's guests are often treated to the all-encompassing cloud-borne effect of his rooftop terrace, whose 2,800 square feet of coral concrete include a jewel box of a pool and a dining cabana.
In recent years, Khan has been working on a big new project: preparing to move his company headquarters, atelier and production hub from New York to Miami. He estimates that almost 90 percent of the ornate embroidery and beadwork on his gowns is done by hand—currently at locations in Italy, Paris, New York and Mumbai. As the garment industry has embraced mass production, this type of artisan handiwork, which his family has done for nearly a century, has begun to die, he says. He feels it's his duty to keep the craft alive—and "I wanted to bring jobs back to this country."
Thanks to Miami's mutual desire to promote job creation, he can. In 2014, he signed a below-market-value, 90-year lease on an ex-industrial portside stretch of the Miami River. His new facilities, which will include a new design school, are slated to open in 2020, in a move that he hopes will lead a fashion-driven economic and cultural renaissance in Miami.
When that time comes, it will be eminent cause for celebration—and no one pops the Champagne quite like Naeem Khan.