A Cuban-American Designer’s History – Narciso Rodriguez

A Cuban-American Designer’s History – Narciso Rodriguez


Abel FL Berriz

His name is Narciso, but he’s hardly what you could call a narcissist. For a man who dresses the stars, Narciso Rodriguez is rather modest, despite being a Hollywood red carpet and White House favorite. His name, though, is written in gold letters in the book of fashion design.

Rodriguez was born in 1961, in Newark, New Jersey, to immigrant parents from Cuba. He describes his home as rather humble, but his family has always been supportive and loving. He calls his parents his “heroes”- a couple of Cubans who migrated to the States to give their son a better life. However, perhaps they couldn’t have imagined how successful their child would become. And he has touched the sky.

After graduating from the Parsons School of Design, in New York, Rodriguez started working for Anne Klein, under Donna Karan. Later, he moved to work on the Women’s Collection at Calvin Klein. Those years are recalled by Rodriguez as his formative period, where he learned the most. TSE, Cerruti, and Loewe have struggled since for his attention. However, in 1997, Rodriguez decided to go solo and launch his own label, in partnership with the Italian manufacturer AEFFE, while still working as Design Director for Loewe.

His first triumph was the bias-cut wedding dress he designed for close friend and co-worker Carolyn Bessette, when she married the late John F. Kennedy Jr. The dress has become iconic, and has drawn international attention. One year later, Rodriguez was honored as Best New Designer at the Vogue/VH1 Fashion Awards in New York, and received the Perry Ellis Award for best new designer, from the Council of Fashion Designers of America. He has also been appointed as the first designer ever to receive consecutive Womenswear Designer of the Year awards by the Council of Fashion Designers of America, in 2002 and 2003. In 2005, Time Magazine named him one of the 25 Most Influential Hispanics in America. In 2007, he received the Fashion Icon Award from Pratt Institute, and was honored for Special Achievement in Fashion by ALMA (the American Latino Media Arts Awards) one year after.

But, despite all the critical acclaim and his relations with the most outstanding and glamorous people of the world, Rodriguez has not forgotten his roots. He points to his parents as his inspiration in life, and the Cuban culture as an inevitable influence in his choices of color and cut. This freshness and honest elegance has caught the eye of socialites and Hollywood stars–among whom Sarah Jessica Parker, Julianna Margulies, and Claire Danes could be mentioned–who have chosen Rodriguez as their number one designer. And the list also includes the current First Lady.

On November 4, 2008, to celebrate her husband’s victory as president-elect, Michelle Obama wore a black dress with splashes of red. Who’s the designer? None other than Cuban-American Narciso Rodriguez. Is this a sign that times were indeed changing? Could be.

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