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Joshua Abramovich

The 2022 Brown Fashion Week speaker series continued in an interview with the fashion designer Narciso Rodriguez. After becoming the Women’s Design Director for Anne Klein Design Studio, and then working for Calvin Klein, Rodriguez started his own label. He discussed his journey as a creative with Seabass, a dual-degree student at Brown and the Rhode Island School of Design, and co-head of Fashion@Brown’s design team.

To start, Rodriguez was asked what initiated his passion for fashion. He shared two dreams of his: to attend Parsons and work for Donna Karan. Fortunately, Rodriguez gained acceptance and attended Parsons. He commented that his class included many talented designers, including the notable Isaac Mizrahi. Rodriguez then went on to fulfill his second aspiration, as he worked at Donna Karen for six years. “Donna liked designers around her that were always in the creative zone,'' Rodriguez exclaimed. He then made an encouraging statement that working "like war" in school prepared him for a professional environment.

When asked what drives his innovation, Rodriguez commented on his love for creating beauty practically and pragmatically. Furthermore, he’s collaborated with performance groups in developing outfits that were elegant yet functional. In addition, Rodriguez’s designs have been worn by many notable women, including First Lady Michelle Obama. This success earned him Womenswear Designer of the Year. In response, Rodriguez told the audience that fashion is a difficult industry and “when your peers tap you on your shoulder and say you’re doing a good job and twice that’s amazing.”

Rodriguez’s accomplishments are not just in fashion but extend into the making of fragrances. When questioned about the secret to his success, Rodriguez explained he was interested in making fragrances from an early age. Hence, collecting bottles and scents that he could get his hands on. His uncle also enjoyed fragrances and introduced many to Rodriguez. Furthermore, perhaps it was his long-standing passion that contributed to his success.

While Rodriguez’s fragrances are popular, he expressed that fashion should be more personal and special. Therefore, he creates limited quantities and one-of-a-kind dresses, selling in boutique stores like Barneys. While he has a clear vision, the COVID-19 pandemic presented new challenges to the fashion community. Rodriguez remarked that his brand had to scale back, focus on selling fragrances, as people purchased less clothing and frequented stores in lower numbers. It’s interesting to hear how fashion brands overcame the obstacles of a new market.

At the end of the discussion, Rodriguez presented even more advice for students. He said, “stay to the core, stay focussed, be passionate. If this is for you there’s no turning back to choosing your path.” Hearing his inspiring journey and experiences as a designer is sure to motivate many young creatives, and we are thrilled to see what Rodriguez does next!

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