"I think my life began last night," says Narciso Rodriguez, slumped in an ornate gold armchair in the over-the-top Principe di Savoia, Milan's ritziest, most expensive hotel.
We had been scheduled to meet at 10.30am, 12 hours after his show. Not surprisingly, he shambles down from his room more than an hour late, bleary- eyed and shaky. "Champagne is a terrible thing," he complains But he'd better get used to it. His life is going to be one long champagne flute from now on.
He had spent the night celebrating with his team, Massimo and Alberta Ferretti, who are manufacturing the line for him, and his parents, whom he flew over for the show and took to dinner at the Milanese fashion pack's favourite restaurant, Le Langhe. After that it was all back to the Principe to Demi Moore's presidential suite. ("It's got a swimming pool in the room," says Rodriguez in wide-eyed amazement, "the biggest hotel room I ever saw.")
Rodriguez is fabulous for one reason only - he makes clothes that make women look gorgeous. Until Sunday night there had never been a single dress or skirt bearing his name. His previous designs went under the label Cerruti. Before that, he worked for Calvin Klein, TSE - the American company specialising in modern cashmere - and Anne Klein when Donna Karan was the designer there. Donna has been supportive throughout, and now wishes him well as he makes the transition from designer to designer label.
She, alone of her trade, sent him flowers to congratulate him on his debut collection.
"His show was a hit. Kate Moss said so, by ordering almost the entire collection; another model paid him his greatest compliment by simply saying, "It's so nice to put on something sexy and classy. These are nice clothes." To some designers, the word "nice" would be the greatest insult. But to Rodriguez, a 36-year-old from New Jersey, the description is just perfect. He is not trying to challenge women, stun the world with his intellect or shock us with see-through underwear. All he wants is for women to look at his sequined slips and camisoles and sporty, luxurious separates on the rail, and want to wear them there and then. And if he achieves that, he is happy.
Narciso (pronounced Nar-see-so) has touched a nerve with fashionable women coming of age in the late Nineties. He produces clothes that are clean, modern, luxurious, as ostentatious or understated as the wearer wants them to be. There are simple organza pique dresses, little sequined vests to be worn under relaxed grey tailoring, pencil skirts, unassuming knits that feel precious to wear, and the dress that every woman should own next summer: short-sleeved, fitted and slightly flared, in bias-cut cheesecloth. Simple, flattering, elegant and clean. Colours echo the changing shades of sunset, from pale aquamarine and dove grey to rosy pink and midnight blue. No wonder Harrods and Harvey Nichols have already snapped up the collection.
In the short time Rodriguez was at Cerruti, he worked wonders. Suddenly, after just two seasons Cerruti became talked about as a label to be seen in.
Then he made the wedding dress for Caroline Bessette, his friend from her days as press officer for Calvin Klein, who happened to be marrying John Kennedy Jr, and got a bit of attention, as you do: "I made a wedding dress for a really good friend and I think that brought a lot of attention to the work I was doing," says Rodriguez, ingenuously (or disingenuously) stretching his blue Dries Van Noten jumper, that looks as if he slept in it.
Perhaps it was a little too much attention for his employers' liking. He was stealing the limelight from the Cerruti family. They parted company with him last March, and Rodriguez was out of a job. But not for long. Never ones to miss out on a hot young designer, LVMH, owners of Givenchy and Dior, offered him a job as design director at the Spanish leather company Loewe. And the powerful Italian manufacturing group Ereffe, which also works with Gaultier and Rifat Ozbek, contacted him to see if he was thinking of starting his own collection.
Just over six months later, photographers are climbing in through the windows, a woman faints outside, fights are breaking out by the catwalk, and Narciso gives birth to his own label. "It was the easiest, happiest collection I ever put together. I felt free," Narciso tells me, well into his second cappuccino. Fashion has got too intellectual. For me it's about excitement, happiness, emotion, travelling, wanting to wear clothes again." He designs for women with busy lives, what he calls "active, fashion-intelligent women".
"You don't have to put a cockatoo on a girl's head to make her look different. It's been so many years of disposable fashion. But the more ugly clothes there are, the more pretty clothes I'll sell. You can create a buzz without making a spectacle."
Right now, the buzz is deafening. Rodriguez cannot really go wrong. As he sits in the bar of the Principe, American magazine editors blow air kisses and tell him the collection was fabulous. By next season, they will all be wearing his clothes too. And then Narciso Rodriguez will be really happy.
Catwalk photographs, from Narciso Rodriguez' Sunday evening show in Milan, by Andrew Thomas
Celebrity photographs: Rex FeaturesReuse content