Photos used in this article are owned by Tiger Photography.
Business Buzz met with Derek Khan in Dubai to hear his amazing adventure of how he went from a royalty & celebrity stylist to prison to becoming a successful businessman in the UAE. Derek Khan is a high school dropout from Trinidad that went to New York to start a new life. Determined to becoming famous, Derek was passionate about what he did, and he succeeded; twice.
Derek Khan moved to New York at age 16 after dropping out of high school, which he regrets until this day because he never “graduated”. He got his first job the day he landed in New York; at McDonalds. Until this day, it is the worst job he ever had. It didn’t last long; he quit the same day to find a job at Neiman Marcus. From that point onward, Derek’s career started growing. He worked at Gucci, Barney’s, Yves Saint Laurent, Bloomingdales, and many others that taught him everything about styling.
Later on he worked at Givenchy, where he described it as “extraordinary”. He had clients such as Jackie Kennedy Onassis and John F. Kennedy. Derek Khan was enjoying his life at that point. “I was a crazy party kid. We would hang out with Andy Warhol and Keith Haring”. At that time these names were still growing. Haring would sign Derek’s pants in a party, and after Derek goes back home he’d wash it off. Because of where he worked, Derek would “dress like a million, but not have a penny in our pockets”. He didn’t mind because he knew he was living this fabulous life; it was crazy.
Moving into the media industry, Derek Khan grouped the dancers for one of Madonna’s videos. He then offered to manage those dancers. The upgraded lifestyle began; Derek would be able to get all sorts of items from various designers for his clients.
“I started getting noticed.”
Soon enough with all his popularity, Derek Khan put together the outfits of Salt-N-Pepa. He introduced high-end fashion brands and jewelry to the music industry; the bling bling. “I became one of the first so-called celebrity stylist.” Following that, he worked with artists such as Mary J. Blige on Share My World and Not Going to Cry. Other big names include Francis Lawrence, Brett Ratner, Joseph Kahn, Brandy & Monica, Lauryn Hill, Snoop Dogg, and many other celebrities and royalties.
Some while later, the music industry declined because of piracy and the internet; hence they stopped paying well. The luxury life took him the wrong way and made him part of a scandal that threw him in jail and ended his career in the US. After leaving prison, he was deported back to Trinidad for not carrying a valid Green Card.
This didn’t stop Derek from staying on the top. He was invited by a reporter in Dubai to cover his life story in a well reputed magazine. His friend lent him some money and bought him a ticket. As soon as he landed, word spread and the media did its job pretty well. More and more business came his way. He worked with the biggest business men, royalties of different Arab countries, and many others.
Derek Khan then decided to diversify his business. With dedication and hard work, Derek is now a consultant for the biggest fashion brands in the region, trades in oil and gas, gold, and diamonds.
One thing that made Derek Khan unique is the fact that he was very open about his history. He has tons of regrets for what he has done in his past, but he never denies his actions. He always loved what he did.
“FOCUS! FOCUS! FOCUS!”
“Your wealth is your friendships and relationships.”
“You have to accept defeat sometimes.”
“You will get many rejections. Keep going!”
“If one day you open a restaurant and your dishwasher stops working, you put on those damn gloves and start washing dishes.”
“Forget about what people think. It’s you and your life.”
“Dubai is an amazing place with great opportunities.”