Photo Courtesy Norma Kamali
Interview

NORMA KAMALI

05.14.12

Norma Kamali opened her first store in 1968. A fashion pioneer, Kamali has reinvented her brand numerous times with signature style, timeless innovative and groundbreaking techniques. Her new venture KamaliKulture offers items $100 and under.

Interview

This year the famous portrait of Farrah Fawcett in one of your swimsuits was sent to the Smithsonian. What was your reaction when you heard?

I was happy when I heard, but that moment remains all about Farrah, not me.  She told me that she happened to have my swimsuit in her bag and her friend, the photographer, happened to shoot her in it on location.  Lucky me!

That picture was taken in 1976, what is it about your swimsuits that make them so timeless?

There are many styles I created in the 70’s with an eye of becoming “antiques of the future.” Many of the swim styles have this timeless quality that has stood the test of time.

Are swimsuits your best selling item today?

They are among my best selling items.

The Norma Kamali brand incorporates health, beauty and wellness. How does this influence your design process?

One important issue I think about on a constant basis is how women are objectified and empowered on a daily basis.  When women feel good about themselves both inside and out, they are empowered. I like to think that as a designer, I am helping them feel empowered.

How does it influence your lifestyle?

Fitness, healthy lifestyle choices and empowered self-esteem are my advice to women.  I try to follow this plan on a daily basis.  My diet consists of non-processed foods and I work out every day.

You adapted to changes in technology early on, from creating one of the first online stores on ebay to introducing an iPhone app that allows customers to shop from your store window. How has this impacted the growth of your business?

I started in business in 1967 and ever since then I have re-invented myself at least a thousand times.  I am a change junkie but in fact I have been in the same job all this time and loving it.

Can you tell us about KamaliKulture?

Whenever I meet women, I hear a fantastic story about a dress or outfit they wore and the events surrounding the experience.  It is so wonderful to hear about something I have done that had such a profound impact on someone’s life.  However, it is also common that I hear: “I used to fit into your clothes and you don’t make my size anymore” or “I just can’t afford your clothes so I haven’t purchased your clothes in a long time.”  My answer to those women is KamaliKulture.  This is a line for everyone – with timeless styles under $100 in sizes 0 to 18.  I live in the collection myself and it is the kind of clothing anyone can grab at a moment’s notice, style up or down and look amazing in it.

Was the line a result of your collaboration with Walmart? When did you start to feel the need to launch your own lower priced collection?

We had a fantastic collaboration with Walmart, and after three years, it was time to reach new audiences. We learned so much about working with Walmart, designing and offering styles for a variety of bodies and budgets.

Where will it be retailing?

It is currently available on Amazon, Zappos and KamaliKulture.com.

As if you haven’t done enough already, what new projects do you see in your future?

KamaliKulture is the most exciting project of my life.  We are excited to expand the line into different categories, including swim, shoes and other accessories.

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