Narciso Rodriguez (Dec 1998)
KARL PLEWKA: What was the first piece of clothing you made?
NARCISO RODRIGUEZ: I was about fourteen and I wanted a black vest, so I took a piece of black felt and cut holes in it.
KP: Did you surprise yourself?
NR: I surprised my mother, poor thing. She was like, "What are you doing?"
KP: Did you ever make clothes for her?
NR: Yes, later on, when my parents were a bit more comfortable with the fact that this is what I do.
KP: You've worked for Calvin Klein, Donna Karen at Anne Klein, and more recently, Carruti in Paris.
NR: I was so inspired by Paris. Everything from the culture to the architecture. Actually, I started out with the idea of being an architect and then moved on to fashion illustration because I loved Antonio Lopez's work; it was so full of energy. That was a huge influence on my career. I really wanted to study fashion illustration, so in high school I did half a day of regular classes and half a day of commercial-art classes.
KP: Many designers begin with architecture and move on to fashion.
NR: I think it's all about structure and form. Certainly by the time I was fifteen or sixteen, I knew about shape and form, and how to create shape and form around a woman's body. I did my art classes, I did my schooling, and then I practiced as a tailor in the evenings and took classes at Parsons on Saturdays. When I was nineteen I went directly from high school to Parsons. I did freelance work for a while, then joined the design studio at Anne Klein for about six years; I worked under Donna Karan, who was the designer at the time. Donna taught us to design always with a look down from the hair to the shoe. She threw it on, wrapped it and draped it and cut it and moved it. She's brilliant like that. I remember being at Parsons and watching Donna come in with thousands of yards of suede and cashmere all over the place, then grab some fabric, put in on the model, and make it sit perfectly.
KP: And after that . . .
NR: After that I went directly to Calvin Klein. That was an interesting experience because I got to work with brilliant people. I always think of my years at Calvin as finishing school.
KP: Your life must have changed greatly, particularly in the last year. Aeffe agreed to produce your own label - which is shown in Milan - and the collection has been very well received. How have you been dealing with designing that and now a collection for Loewe also, which you show in Paris?
R: I'd be lying if I said it was just fabulous. I am a sentimentalist, and I feel blessed because of all this, but there have been tough periods. The travel is physically draining sometimes. The amount of time you get to spend with your family and friends is limited. Relationships change because of distance. You feel like you are constantly pushed. The upshot of that, though, is you are the president of your own company. That's brilliant. I also get to work in Madrid for Loewe and learn about a new culture.
KP: In Madrid, does it feel like you're going back to your roots?
NR: A little bit. Spanish people are so refined. They're very sophisticated but in a very natural way. They have an incredible sense of etiquette and manners, then they see some bulldozer like me from New York and they are like, "Huh?" But they respect what I do. It's been an incredible experience - just as Paris has opened up a very creative, feminine part of my work, Madrid has inspired something happy, something bold, something brave - what do you call that?