Conversation with: Narciso Rodriguez
November 25, 2014
Narciso Rodriguez creates clothing that accentuates and celebrates the female form. No surprise, then, to see his handiwork worn by fashion stylists, Hollywood starlets, and political luminaries alike. NM Fashion Director Ken Downing stops by the designer’s New York studio to talk color, texture, and coming attractions.
KEN DOWNING: Each season, you find the most amazing color palettes, and your love of dressing women has always captivated me. Tell me about the resort collection and your thought process as you were putting ideas together.
NARCISO RODRIGUEZ: Well, thank you. I love creating for women, and resort was one of those seasons where I put the figure at the forefront. I wanted to do very clean, sexy shapes. And I love graphic elements using black and white, but I wanted to do those graphic elements close to the body and a bit more feminine. I was looking at a figurative painting, and it inspired graphic florals.
KD: I am obsessed with that whole mix, almost a mosaic pattern and print. Is this something you’ve been feeling a lot?
NR: I love working in collage mode. For resort, it went into high gear. We had all of these beautiful textures, patterns, jacquards, and prints—the room was full of them. So I wasn’t scared to experiment and make very wearable things that had maybe four different patterns or textures in them.
KD: Do you find that designers fear making wearable clothes? I think you understand that women are curvaceous and—there’s a sensuality to them. It seems to be something that’s just inherent in the clothes you create.
NR: I think fashion—whether it’s for trend’s sake, for fashion’s sake, or simply to get a reaction out of people—is not something I’m really interested in. To me, fashion needs to be very practical, and beautiful, and stylish. I mean, if you buy something, and you love it, but you can’t sit in it, or you can’t wear it, or you’re uncomfortable, or it doesn’t make you look and feel great, then what’s the point of creating it?
KD: Do you think about color, pattern, or silhouette first? Or do you go off on vacation somewhere to be inspired?
NR: I draw inspiration from the street. I see women in New York—how they move, how they go to work, how they present themselves at night. It’s such a fountain of inspiration. But every season is a bit different because it could be a painting or a fabric or texture that inspires me. I had so many beautiful collages on the inspiration wall, but ultimately, they had nothing to do with what happened with the collection.
KD: Well, there’s a very painterly quality to the flowers that you used.
NR: The team here was very inspired; everybody wanted to contribute a technique. Someone actually painted the watercolor florals that we used, and we watched the whole process unfold. Today so many things are generated by computer, that to see someone actually painting by hand and then taking those paintings and converting them
into materials—fabrics and prints—was really beautiful and kind of old-fashioned.
KD: I’m always amazed when I see your runway shows because the color mixes are unexpected. Do you whip up every sample in multiple colors?
NR: No, I’m very careful. Like this week, I went to the farmers’ market and bought so many unusually colored vegetables and gave them to our fabric person. We’re working on spring right now, and the challenge was to get that very black purple, or different shades of black, lava, and charcoal—but each one has a very different tone. I experiment before we actually put anything into a garment.
KD: What else might trot down your runway in terms of color?
NR: For spring, I cleared the slate a little bit and started with the elements. I was looking at beautiful photographs of water and the ocean—very serene. And then I found this amazing photograph of an orb floating over the ocean, with skies and minerals. We went to a mineral store and bought these beautiful stones and had them matched for fabrics.
KD: Your fabric person must be like, “Here he comes again with his basket of tricks!”
NR: No, I think we all really love the challenge and to find new ways. We have a big archive of colors, but it’s always so much more exciting to reinvent. How do you get a hot pink that no one has ever seen before?
KD: So you’re adding a little color intensity on top of your deep black tones as well?
NR: We used copper and mercury and these beautiful deep tones. And white. And something we call “new black,” which is a very dark gray.
KD: There’s a lovely harmony when you put color on top of gray. It becomes a nice canvas for color.
NR: With lava, we wanted to mix the new black and white, but then the alternative would be adding quartz colors, aquamarines, and hot pink.
KD: That actually sounds like quite a spectrum of color for you. Tell me a little bit about your patterns or prints.
NR: The patterns are very curious because they became so much about an orb or a circle—all very abstract. Again, it’s going back to things that are very elemental.
KD: And silhouettes going forward?
NR: I relaxed the skirt a little bit. It’s a little bit more A-line, but the silhouette is still close to the body—very sexy and short. There are some very easy silhouettes as well. I’m excited because I haven’t worked on a collection that has had this many things happening all at once.
KD: What’s happened in your life that has made you create with so much color, ornamentation, and embroidery?
NR: I think with time, you gain confidence, and there’s a level of security in what you know you do well, and you focus on that and forget the rest. It makes life and work a lot more fun and interesting.
Photography by Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin