Narciso Rodriguez’s Secret to Lasting So Long in Fashion is Blocking Out the Noise


2018 Couture Council Award Luncheon

Getty ImagesMonica Schipper

When you can trace the start of your still-evolving career back to the ’80s, any reflection you do on your journey is most certainly filled with some sweet memories and loads to be thankful for. Such is the case for designer Narciso Rodriguez, who in 2018 is celebrating the 20th anniversary of his eponymous label. In addition to amassing celebrity fans like Claire Danes and Jessica Alba, Rodriguez’s influence on the industry is so vast that he was chosen to receive this year’s FIT Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion, with past recipients including Karl Lagerfeld, Valentino, and Oscar de la Renta.

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“I feel humbled, touched, and honored more than anyone can imagine,” Rodriguez told ELLE of this momentous time in his career, right before receiving the Couture Council distinction. “It dawned on me that I was working so hard and that I was so busy that I didn’t realize that I had put twenty years into designing these amazing dresses.” He adds, “This year, so many people have told me that they’re happy I stuck with it and that means a lot to me.”

For the director of the Museum at FIT, Dr. Valerie Steele, Rodriguez’s longevity comes down to his clear vision and the decision not to march to the beat of fashion’s relentless pace. “He’s not whiplashed into following each trend,” she says. “He very clearly knows what he wants to do and he’s crafting these very beautiful, body-worshipping pieces that ostensibly, give the look of minimal garments. And he’s built a very devoted following among actresses and people who are just crazy about his work.”

2018 CFDA Fashion Awards - Winner's Walk

Claire Danes and Narciso Rodriguez

Getty ImagesDimitrios Kambouris

According to Rodriguez, it’s his stubbornness and creativity that have kept him in business this long. “I’ve just focused on making clothes and creating things and I think there are less people focused on making things as opposed to people promoting themselves, to be blunt,” the Cuban designer stated. “There’s all of a sudden a renewed appreciation for people who are focused on the craft. It’s the reason why I started and entered into this field. It’s the part of my job that I like the most and I think that’s what people recognize today.”

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When asked to recount his most memorable looks, he couldn’t name just one. “Certainly Mrs. Obama and Carolyn [Bessette-Kennedy] are incredible fashion icons,” he says. “Sarah Jessica: I was so honored to make her a maternity dress as well as an awards dress,” he says. “Rachel Weisz, Julianne Marguiles: Amazing beauties who have great style. Claire Danes and Jennifer Connelly—they’ve all given me as much as I’ve given them because they’ve all made such a huge impression on me and inspired me to go forward.”

Senator Barack Obama with his daughters Sasha and Malia, and

Michelle Obama wears Narciso Rodriguez on election night in 2008.

Getty ImagesNew York Daily News Archive

Of these organic relationships the designer shares, “The women that I dress are usually women that I’ve dressed for years, either through a stylist or they reach out to me themselves.” Unlike many other parts of the Hollywood industrial complex, “sometimes no one is involved and it’s just a one-on-one with that person. The agent sometimes lets the two of us do our thing and they won’t get involved,” says Rodriguez. He has a conversation with his clients (who are now often friends) about how they want to feel in the look “and then we make it happen, which is always the richest part of the experience.”

2018 CFDA Fashion Awards - Arrivals

Julianna Margulies and Narciso Rodriguez

Getty ImagesJared Siskin

With 20 years of business under his belt, Rodriguez has seen a lot in the fashion industry. Change is occurring, yes, but for the Rodriguez it’s not enough. “It’s shocking and surprising to me. I work with agencies and people and when I see the lack of diversity on runways and in ad campaigns, it’s surprising that we’re all talking about this,” he remarks when asked about inclusivity in fashion. “You look somewhere and have to think, “Wait a minute, what was that whole conversation about?” It goes over people’s heads.”

So for what’s next for Rodriguez? He’s actually incredibly content with where he is in this moment. “I hope to be in the same place I am today: making the things that I love and dressing women I love to dress,” he shares when asked where he hopes his brand will be a decade from now. “I’m going to keep my fingers in my ears, trying to block out the noise. I’m good where I am.”



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