By Daisy Cabrera
The Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum in Miami hosted an opening reception for their new exhibition, Narciso Rodriguez: An Exercise in Minimalism. This marks the first-ever museum solo exhibition by the Cuban-American fashion designer, Narciso Rodriguez, and the first time a major museum has presented an exhibition by a living fashion designer during the world-famous Art Basel season in Miami. The exhibit runs through Jan. 8.
“When I was approached about doing this exhibit here, I thought it would be a great opportunity to speak about how proud I am of my heritage, and for my extended Cuban family to see my work firsthand in a very different way,” says Rodriguez. Dressed entirely in black, with a sliver of white along his neckline, the Latino designer embodies the aesthetic. His masterful, minimalist designs are showcased as works of art, glorious sculptures elevating the sharply edited exhibit. He walks around the gallery, quiet and taking it all in.
Featuring nearly two decades of more than 40 couture designs, the presentation is co-curated by Alex Gonzalez, the Creative Director of ELLE Magazine and the museum’s curator Klaudio Rodriguez, who reveals, “This exhibition contributes to the discourse about fashion as art, because there are many parallels. Narciso redefines the processes of creativity, artistry, skills and personal expression to create his garments.”
Visual arts have influenced the famous designer. To illustrate this, Rodriguez’s modern designs on view – asymmetric tunics, geometric prints, bright bursts of colors – are perfectly paired with pieces by major artists such as Carmen Herrera (Cuba), Lygia Clark (Brazil), María Freire (Uruguay), Mira Schendel (Brazil) and Eugenio Espinoza (Venezuela).
“When we started to talk about what the show would look like and how we would put it together, it was really an interesting exercise to go back to the archives and see things that I had done in the past,” Rodriguez shares. Throughout his career, he’s never strayed from what he does best: timeless silhouettes with an architectural yet feminine energy.
Rodriguez’s polished designs have been featured in film, on stage and TV (hello, Sex and the City!). Top personalities have lined the front row at his fashion shows, and donned his signature garments on red carpets, at award galas and in magazines. These iconic A-listers include Salma Hayek, Jessica Alba, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kerry Washington, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Aniston, Kate Winslet, Charlize Theron and many more.
One of the biggest names to wear his line is Michelle Obama, catapulting him to international fame as she dazzled during the 2008 inauguration of President Obama. The First Lady has worn his garments to a National Medal for Museum and Library Service ceremony, in Argentina and during the President’s final State of the Union address. But, Rodriguez’s first taste of White House royalty was creating Carolyn Bessette’s wedding dress when she married John Kennedy, Jr., the son of former president John F. Kennedy.
It’s easy to fall in love with Rodriguez’s exquisite creations. They feel like romantic poems whispering sweet nothings, giving you the feels, encouraging you to dream.
Looking back, the Jersey kid has come a long way. From an early age, Rodriguez showed a creative inkling – sketching, making art, sewing and designing. A graduate from Parson’s School of Design, he went on to design for Anne Klein, Calvin Klein and Nino Cerruti. Almost two decades ago, Rodriguez launched his women’s ready to wear collection and established a NYC atelier. When his first fragrance hit the market – a sensual blend of vanilla, orange blossom, amber, musky and veviter notes – it became an instant hit.
Since then, he’s won endless awards: Vogue/VH1 Fashion Award, Hispanic Society Award, Council of Fashion Designers of America awards (twice), Pratt Institute’s Fashion Icon Award, ALMA Award, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian National Design Award, El Museo del Barrio’s Award for Excellence in the Arts and Vanidades’ Iconic Man of Style Award.
Even with this heavyweight list of accomplishments, the fashion powerhouse has never forgotten his Latin roots. “The part that I always see as being born to my heritage is the part that celebrates a woman’s beauty, having an appreciation for the body and a practicality, elegance and joy to creating these pieces that will be enjoyed by women,” Rodriguez adds. “Also, there is a pragmatism to the work that was given to me by my parents and my family.”
The designer, who cooks up a mean congrí, was named one of the “25 Most Influential Hispanics in America” (Time Magazine) and quoted, “For me, designing is such a personal thing. It’s really emotional—that’s part of my Latin upbringing.” (New York Times)
The Narciso Rodriguez: An Exercise in Minimalism exhibit runs through Jan. 8 at Frost Art Museum’s Grand Galleries at Florida International University, 10975 S.W. 17 Street, Miami.