Lavish frocks abound in Nardos Imam’s fashion confectionary, their French and Italian textiles so opulent they almost overwhelm the eye. Women driving by the boutique on Preston Road often spin their heads around to view the frocks in the window, and they vow to stop in. Yet most of these elegant designs serve as mere inspiration for the house specialty—bespoke, exclusive dresses for special occasions.
“What we do is one of a kind,” explains designer Imam. “It’s all about the vision. I dream for others about what they want in life. I dream about the woman standing in front of me.”
Most of the Nardos designs are sculptural, some expressing the idea via elaborate structural underpinnings, others through cut or color. They all start with beautiful textiles that may be enhanced with custom beading, embroidery, and prints.
“I’m like a hunter—I love fabric,” Imam says. “I look for color, texture, and what the fabric can mold to be. Color invites you; it gives meaning, and it’s essential to shape. It sculpts the design.”
In 1997, at age 17, Imam left her family in Eritrea and moved to Dallas to seek a better life than her repressive home country could offer. She’s come a long way since her first job as a cashier at McDonald’s—a concept so foreign that she had to take home all of the product packaging to memorize it.
Imam studied fashion locally at El Centro College and gained industry experience at the designer bridal salon at Stanley Korshak, where her own clothing sparked interest from clients. She’s operated her label since 2009. “I’m not a sexy designer—I’m not about the boobs and butts,” she explains. “I’m about being feminine and wearing it well.”
When a young bride or deb demands a deep, plunging neckline, Imam gently reminds her that her father will be by her side, and what might he see? “I tell them they have to live in it, not only standing in the mirror,” she says. “You have to be concerned with what will happen in society.”
Her atelier prefers a six-month window to create a custom piece, but has recently introduced a seasonal ready-to-wear line of “everyday pretty dresses” that can be made to order within two weeks. Prices for this collection open at $500 for a top and rise to $3,500. “We’re excited to see what it’s going to bring,” Imam says. “It’s done well so far in-house, but we haven’t marketed it yet.”