Fall 2018 collection next Wednesday

When Narciso Rodriguez staged the first show for his eponymous label in Milan, for Spring 1998, it was mayhem. The designer, who was in his mid-30s at the time, was known around town for his work at Cerruti, and around the world for the sublime wedding dress he designed for his friend Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy. “One photographer had to be taken to the hospital,” Rodriguez remembers of the show. “It was that kind of frenzy.”

It’s two decades later and Rodriguez is staging an intimate salon-style presentation for his Fall 2018 collection next Wednesday, after taking last season off with newborn twins at home. The industry has changed radically in the 20 years since he got his start. Creative directors (many unable to draw, to say nothing of actually picking up a needle and thread) have replaced craftsmen; street wear is the lingua franca of the age; and all the fashion action seems to go down on Instagram, not at retail.

But Rodriguez is still here. And thriving. Barneys, which has stocked him from the beginning, is celebrating his milestone with a capsule collection of his hit dresses from over the years. “The simplicity and purity of Narciso’s collections transcend fashion, which is why he will always have a home here,” says Daniella Vitale, Barneys’s CEO. “He is a designer’s designer, which is a true testament to his craft, in our sometimes stylistically driven industry.”

Rodriguez is as much engineer as he is dressmaker—an engineer with a naughty streak, he deserves a PhD for all the sexy LBDs he’s whipped up over the years. The Barneys capsule proves that, while it simultaneously reinforces the fact that he’s consistently been true to himself and not to trends. Happily obsessive over the tiniest detail, his great talent is making even the most effortful creations look effortless. Red carpet stars like Claire Danes, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Julianna Margulies are all loyalists, as is former First Lady Michelle Obama, and it’s not hard to see why: His dresses shape the body where the body needs shaping, and they mold to it everywhere else.
“Fashion is in a place at the moment where 20 years is a great thing to celebrate,” Rodriguez says. “Things feel so fast now, and careers feel very short. It’s been quite a ride.” In the slideshow above, the designer reminisces about the dresses in the Barneys collection.

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