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Norma Kamali
Photography Michael Waring

Icon Norma Kamali on how the Aids crisis inspired her wellness range


TextNellie Eden

Want to look as good as Norma? Sleep, exercise and food. It’s that simple

She outfitted the bouncers at Studio 54, kickstarted the wellness trend and at 74 years old, she’s fitter than most people half her age. Yes, Norma Kamali is officially our hero. That’s not even mentioning the fact that she designed the swimsuit in that iconic Farrah Fawcett image. Or the high-heel sneakers. Or that she was decades ahead of her time when making stylish sportswear in the 80s or opening her wellness cafe in 2001. So many things that we now take for granted emerged from the imagination of Kamali. She was there first, leading the way. Which is why we were so excited when Kamali launched her totally natural skincare line earlier this year. Drawing from her years of experience researching alternative health products, NORMAKAMALIFE is a four-part skincare range aimed at all ages and skin types and formulated with simple, natural ingredients. We caught up with the legendary designer to find out more.   

Talk to me about NORMAKAMALIFE and how it came to be…

Norma Kamali: NORMAKAMALIFE is a culmination of 40 years research and curiosity of how to live a healthy lifestyle. I began my search after friends were dying of aids and learning that a compromised immune system was the cause. After 9/11 I opened the wellness cafe curating and developing products to offer alternatives to personal care products to boost the immune system. For instance, I offered tooth soap instead of toothpaste to pull bacteria from the system. Now there is an abundance of products under the wellness lifestyle header and maybe too many. Simplicity and effective methods are what is needed now and NORMAKAMALIFE offers that.

What makes NORMAKAMALIFE unique? And how does it reflect you as a character? 

Norma Kamali: The concept of a SKINLINE that has four products CLEAN SMOOTH SOFT AND GLOW that can be used for face and body and have multi-use potential. The SKINLINE can be used as a system eliminating the need or desire to wear face makeup. The SKINLINE is inclusive and democratic for men and women of all ages skin types and skin colours.

How important are ingredients to you? And what ingredients are you excited by at the moment?

Norma Kamali: I am excited about the ingredients because they are proven they are timeless and they work. We have aloe and charcoal in the cleanser add finely ground olive pits for exfoliation and olive oil is another ingredient in the moisturiser. 

Talk me through your exercise routine? 

Norma Kamali: My daily workout happens at ‘physique 57’ and especially love doing a variety of their classes. I take yoga classes as well because they have a meditative mind-body breath exchange I find challenging but restorative as well. I like gyrokinesis and the Maison Munz floor method too.

And your wellness routine? What steps do you ensure you take every day? 

Norma Kamali: Sleep, diet and exercise are the three pillars of a healthy lifestyle. I love smoothies because I can pack nutrition in each one and I love the taste, I am primarily focused on plant-based meals with fish once or twice a week. Workout in some form daily and sleep is the most important step for me. I am an eight-hour person. 

Do you wear make-up? 

Norma Kamali: In 1993, as I approached 50, I decided my skin should not be covered with make-up. I created a no make-up concept that has evolved and is my skin line under the NORMAKAMALIFE brand. I use mascara and a brow brush and a plant-based lip balm. 

Would you ever change your hair now?

Norma Kamali: I am open to change obviously, it’s in my personality to do so. I was a redhead for 15 years and usually pick a hairstyle for a period of time as my identity.

Did you ever party late...you were at Studio 54, what was that like? 

Norma Kamali: I was close to Studio 54 because of my friendship with Ian Schrager but in fact, I never went. I don’t drink either and more and more studies now show alcohol is not good especially for women’s health. 

Who’s had the most impact on your style and why? 

Norma Kamali: Initially my mother’s obsession with vintage films opened my love for the timeless classic style of the thirties and forties. Since that influence, I feel the energy of each decade and actually half-decade and react to that time with fabric and style.

What do you think you’re best known for? 

Norma Kamali: This really depends on the age group you fall into...Sleeping bag coat, or swimsuits, maybe the Farrah Fawcett swimsuit poster, or high-heel sneakers and parachute clothing. Definitely casual sportswear for every occasion and active clothing.

Who or what inspires and motivates you? 

Norma Kamali: Living a creative life. 

What are some of the stranger jobs you’ve had? 

Norma Kamali: My first job, and a great one, was working at a computer at North West Orient Airlines and travelling every weekend to London for $29 dollars round trip.

Do you still love fashion? 

Norma Kamali: I love my job which is to design four collections a year, especially because things change from season to season, but also I have learned to value designs that are timeless that I created years ago that are valuable today. 

How does it feel to collaborate with people like Beyonce? 

Norma Kamali: I remember Nile Rogers bringing three gorgeous girls to my studio to come up with a look for their launch as Destiny’s Child. Since then Beyonce has shopped my collection and I have been asked to provide looks for different projects. She is an extraordinary talent with a powerful influence on millions of women around the world.

What’s been your career highlight to date? 

Norma Kamali: There is one more important than any award or recognition: I am living a creative life always towards my purpose which is in the service of women. 

Any regrets? 

Norma Kamali: Nope!

What makes you happy?  

Norma Kamali: Laughing!! Funny stories funny situations funny people!

What makes you anxious?

Norma Kamali: I love technology and how better and more productive our lives are as a result yet I am concerned about the impact of technology on our overall health, mental health and wellbeing especially the children

What does beauty mean to you? 

Norma Kamali: Embracing your authentic self

What do you think the future of wellness is?

Norma Kamali: A sustainable simple approach to clean food simple safe products that work, integrating fitness and mind-body meditative practices ancient medicine like Chinese acupuncture balancing with high-level technology

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? 

Norma Kamali: “Know thyself” from my sixth-grade teacher

What do you think the future of beauty is? 

Norma Kamali: A healthy lifestyle and authenticity.

NORMAKAMALIFE is available exclusively at Selfridges London, Manchester Trafford and www.selfridges.com

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