A royal wedding can be quite the reputation booster, and when Carolyn Bessette asked Narciso Rodriguez to design the gown for her 1996 candlelight nuptials to America's prince, John F. Kennedy, Jr., the young designer carried it off with career-making aplomb. He drew a sleek slip of a pearl-white, bias-cut silk crepe dress that spawned thousands of copies.
Clean lines and pure forms remain the hallmark of the Rodriguez style. Known for precision seaming, he favors a minimalist palette of black, white, and gray, embellished with restraint. The cocktail set goes for his graphic silhouettes, as does America's other royal tribe: celebrities. Claire Danes, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Rachel Weisz are all loyalists.
Born in 1961 to Cuban-American parents, Rodriguez dreamed of becoming an architect before awakening to fashion. After graduating from Parsons, he worked under Donna Karan at Anne Klein, and in 1991 won a gig with the by then much hotter Klein, Calvin. (It was at Calvin Klein that he met Bessette, who worked as a publicist for the house.) Rodriguez's rise was steady: In 1995, he was named design director of New York label TSE; shortly thereafter, he was plucked by Cerutti in Paris; and not many seasons after that scored backing from the Italian company Aeffe to mount the first collection under his own name, in Milan. Meanwhile, Rodriguez racked up all the right awards and accolades.
In 1997, LVMH tapped Rodriguez to be head designer of Loewe, a Spanish couture house in need of modernization. That gig lasted through the fall of 2001, then it was back to New York ASAP to show his ready-to-wear collection under his own name. In 2007, Liz Claiborne Inc. bought a substantial stake in that label, but 18 months later the relationship was severed and Rodriguez regained full ownership of his business.
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