Norma, tell us more about your new book ‘I Am Invincible’.
I AM INVINCIBLE is a handbook for women .It is focused on aging with power through the three pillars of healthy lifestyle. Each decade presents a transition that helps us each evolve and prepares us for the next decade. There are tips and my 75 years of experience as a reference and 53 yard working with women.
What is the secret to longevity in the industry?
The secret to longevity is authenticity, knowing your purpose and what is important, and making decisions based on this life commitment.
What is your concept of aging with power?
The more knowledge you gain, the more empowered you are. And if you can feel good and look good through a healthy lifestyle the combination equals aging with power!!
Your name and brand just keeps ticking all the boxes of relevance. How do you keep it up?
I’ve been an entrepreneur since 1967. I think my job in this lifetime is to make women feel good about themselves. Most women struggle with self-esteem about how they look. I give them options that are positive.
You’ve obviously seen all kind of trends come and go. When designing a collection for Norma Kamali, do you even think in terms of trends?
I’ve seen trends repeat themselves a number of times, which is actually great information. There are clothes that are really investments because they’re going to surface again and be a part of the zeitgeist. You can wear them throughout your life and at different periods of time more than others. The more we know who we are, we tend to buy things that we really love. And then having them in your wardrobe and building on a selection of things you love creates your identity. The trends that come and go become less appealing. So I don’t follow trends. I’m grateful that I have experience in knowing what is relevant for women, but I don’t have a theme and I don’t have a country that influences me. I don’t do any of that.
You really were the first person who started the athleisure trend. Designing fleece ready to wear was unheard of…
I swam a lot as a kid. The pool was right across the street from my house, and I’d climb over the fence to go swimming. I loved swimming. And I’d always put on a sweatshirt when I got out of the water. And I thought, why don’t I do that as swimsuit cover-ups? So I got gray sweatshirt fabric and started to do some big cocoon shapes. And then … let me do a dress, let me do a skirt, let me do a gown, let me do a jumpsuit. And I did this whole collection in gray fleece.
Well, you started it and now it has even reached couture levels. Do you have a favorite piece?
I’m happy that it didn’t go away, but I’m not one to look back. My favorite is usually what I’ve just worked on. I didn’t save any of my designs–I got rid of all of it. It was very freeing. When I turned 50, I had had a good amount of success and a beautiful home and I was making furniture and doing all kinds of different things.
I was making chandeliers and all kinds of upholstered furniture. I had 20,000 original samples in my warehouse and I thought, “Why am I keeping that?” And I looked around at the home I was in–part of the Woolworth Estate– which was quite gorgeous and I restored it and I had collected wonderful things. And I said, “Everything here is holding me back from being creative and because it’s so beautiful it’s keeping me here.” So I sold the apartment, I had an auction; I sold all the furniture I designed, original samples. And since then I don’t collect anything. I’m very minimal. I don’t look back and save things and have photos or memorabilia. It’s a little shocking for people who don’t know my process. They’re like, “You don’t have any pictures! You don’t have any art!” Nope. Just simple. Clean.
You’ve fully embraced “less is more.”
Yes. Especially if you’re creative, you need to have a blank palette in front of you. It’s very helpful to keep it as simple as possible.
How do you think of your business today? You’ve expanded into lots of different things–your store and collection and your interest in wellness.
So much of it is different because of the Internet and e-commerce. Fortunately, about 10 years ago, I did a line for Wal-Mart, for three years–and I knew if I did it for any longer then it would be Norma Kamali Wal-Mart and that would be my identity. But I wanted the experience, so I learned how to do fashion at a price with good quality. And when you do the volume they do, you can get good fabric and you can get good quality because with Wal-Mart you’re commanding a big order. I thought: That’s what I want to do! I slowly transitioned out of department stores or specialty stores that I felt would be risky for me, and I tightened my belt—very tightly. My business now is all price ranges of clothing with exclusives for our website and also for other websites. It’s a really healthy way to develop partnerships.
Where can we see these exclusives?
Net-A-Porter, of course, is a great luxury site. There’s Matches, My Theresa. Revolve is barnstorming–it’s young and very hot. They’re doing tremendous business and they know what they’re doing. Shopbop is still hanging in there. And then there’s Amazon and Zappos. And you can go through all the department stores and their websites. So every line is curated for the character of the different sites. And then we do things just for each of them that they have exclusively and they do a really great business with it.
You were starting to say that it’s more than apparel now. Can you talk about this a little more?
For many years, I had a great interest in what we now call wellness. When 9/11 happened, I realized that was a huge turning point in terms of stress and physical and mental health, and I knew that we were never going to go back to the way things were–we’d be living at a higher decibel of stress than before. And when you have stress, you have illness. I thought building a good immune system was something I could contribute to. So I set up a space in my building and I started bringing in products–anything from supplements to healthy food, to juices, to alkaline products to books.
So this is where a lot of your time is spent now–new wellness?
Yes. I started doing theme-based podcasts. Sleep was one. I could do 50 of those type of shows because there’s so much stuff people really need help with and I plan to do more. Food–you know, we all have strange relationships with food. I thought it was very Western and American that we’re all thinking about food all the time–when we’re eating, when we’re not, how good or bad it is. But when I go to the Middle East or China and I interview women there–same thing. They’re talking about how heavy they are, how they’re going on a diet. I was like, “No way! You’re wearing a chador and talking about how big you are.”
Can you tell us a little more about the 3 pillars to life: diet, fitness and sleep?
Sleep is 50 percent of the healthy lifestyle pie.When you wake is when you do all you can to ensure a good night’s sleep. From what you eatand not have like caffeine after a certain time to exercise daily and meditation and other stress reducing organic practices. Diet is easy, only have healthy food in your home. Eat less, stay in your budget for food, buy less, buy quality. Exercise should be daily and you should book an appointment each day blocked out for you! Respect yourself and others will too.
A lot of women of a certain age feel invisible and want to feel relevant. How do we change the aging conversation?
I wouldn’t change my age for 27 or 37 or any of those transitional times because there’s something really empowering about having knowledge and experience. The type of knowledge you can’t get unless you go through life’s up and downs and gotten beat up a little bit. All of that is so critical to giving you a sense of grounding and understanding more of what life is about. That’s the biggest counter to looking at aging in a negative way. And then I think there are three pillars that everyone should follow as far as their well being. Sleep is 50 percent of the pie. 25 percent is what you eat and the other 25 percent is movement. And if that’s on the menu for your life, you’re good to go. Well, that and keeping curious.
What’s your happy place?
My bed. I love my bed.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever done?
Um, I don’t know if I’ve done it yet. I’m on the way. I’m on the path.
After shedding a bunch of material things, is there anything that you covet?
I covet my friendships, I covet my relationship. I was lucky enough to meet my soul mate at 65. Can you imagine?
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