If designer Naeem Khan’s New Year’s Eve party is any indication, fashionistas really do care about food. His guests, a mix of fashion, music, art and design types, gathered in clusters on low sofas in his New York City loft to share little plates of antipasti: the crunchy, lemony Sicilian rice balls called arancini; crostini topped with caper-studded eggplant caponata; and utterly addictive fried baby artichokes sprinkled with Parmigiano. As they ate, they praised both the food and the fashion at the party, particularly a Naeem Khan dress made of featherweight nude tulle covered with rose- and sapphire-colored stones. "Naeem, I need to wear that dress," exclaimed Donna D’Cruz, a party DJ and the wife of Tommy Boy Records founder Tom Silverman. "It’s a bombshell. Boom!"
Khan, a Mumbai native, who dresses Princess Aga Khan and pop singer Beyoncé in his gowns, is famous for his exuberant entertaining style. And for his stamina: Khan and his wife, Ranjana, the head of an embroidery company that does work for fashion houses, throw parties at least once a week. At dinners for up to 15 guests, Khan often will cook Indian dishes such as ground rib-eye kebabs marinated in a dry rub that his mother sends him from India. When entertaining as many as 100 guests, which he does roughly every other month, he usually hires D’Orazio Food Events, the catering arm of the restaurant Palma in Manhattan; D’Orazio also supplied the delicious Italian food for his New Year’s Eve party. At these big parties, Khan sometimes asks guests to come in costume (the theme of his 20th wedding anniversary party was Hollywood meets Bollywood; he went as Zorro). "I love the idea of people getting their creative ya-yas off," he explained. "We’ve been doing these kinds of parties since the Studio 54 days, so it’s in us."
Indeed, Khan, who moved to the United States in 1976 and worked as an assistant for Halston for three years, embodies that fun-loving, anything-goes Studio 54 spirit, but in a warm, intimate way. "His parties are exquisite," said Maria de Madariaga, an art consultant and a guest at the party. "The food is incredible, the atmosphere is mellow and there are always interesting people. My husband and I met the Scottish comedian Billy Connolly here once, and another time he sat next to actress Patricia Clarkson at dinner. And you get a little gift when you leave." Khan’s luxe party favors—tonight he’s offering the women long silver-and-bone necklaces from his forthcoming jewelry line—are inspired by the Indian tradition of giving presents at dinner parties. "It’s a way to say that I’m thankful we’re all here together," Khan said.