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Serenity Now

Last fall, Narciso Rodriguez was faced with a daunting reality. Despite having earned his status within New York's fashion establishment over the past decade, Rodriguez was struggling to make ends meet. There wasn't much money to buy the fabrics...

Narciso Rodriguez in his studio

Narciso Rodriguez in his studio.

Photo By George Chinsee

Last fall, Narciso Rodriguez was faced with a daunting reality. Despite having earned his status within New York's fashion establishment over the past decade, Rodriguez was struggling to make ends meet. There wasn't much money to buy the fabrics needed to make samples for this fall collection, and he had just one patternmaker to help put it together. Amid all this, he was looking for a new financial backer who could help free him from an existing partnership with Aeffe, which helped set up his label in 1997.

"Donna Karan sent me six rolls of fabric to make clothes out of," Rodriguez, 46, recalls. "Ralph [Lauren]...heard that things weren't great and wanted to sit down and find out why my business wasn't there, or, as he said, 'Why you, of all people, would be struggling.' Anna [Wintour] was on it. Everybody came together to support me. We felt very loved and supported by the industry. It meant a lot to me."

Fast-forward 12 months, and all the love seems to have paid off. During the spring 2008 show, the designer displayed perhaps his best collection to date-and certainly one of the best of the New York runway season. The success came on the heels of a new partnership deal with Liz Claiborne Inc., and the first fruits of their marriage were evident in the collection. Rodriguez evolved his usual form-embracing, clean aesthetic with light and artsy touches. A circle shape informed many of his designs, from a mauve circular stroke running across a white summer dress to tie-dye starburst embroidery to subtle dandelions embroidered around a skirt.

Sitting in the quiet environs of his Irving Place studio, Rodriguez citesmultiple sources as inspirations, from the striking drawings of Anish Kapoorto dyed Japanese colors and the way in which two unusual colors can cometogether to create an unexpected hue. Then there were colors he extracted bycomputer from turn-of-the-century French posters, and a giant ninja robotimage he found in East Village art gallery and T-shirt shop Giant Robot.

Retailers and editors were full of praise for the Cuban-American designer. Julie Gilhart, senior vice president and fashion director of Barneys New York, echoes the sentiment of many, describing it as Rodriguez's "best collection to date." Clearly, it's a Rodriguez moment.
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