The Norma Kamali Bio Chron
Norma Kamali is an iconic designer marking 55 years in business. She owns her own business and continues to remain relevant in the fashion industry while living a creative life and running her global company. Norma is credited with fashion inventions that have impacted and influenced fashion globally throughout the decades.
She invented many firsts in fashion: the sleeping bag coat, sweats as ready to wear which inspired casual dressing as a global lifestyle, inventive active sportswear, influential swimwear that inspired many swimwear companies for decades, wash and wear easy care, and jersey knit collections for a modern lifestyle for packable travel friendly wardrobes.
She designed luxury collections in Italy and a fashion wardrobe for Walmart while managing her global business based in New York City. She collaborated in numerous licensing agreements for all categories in the USA, Japan and Europe throughout her career. No matter the design, the objective for her brand is designing clothing that is timeless, sustainable (wash only), and inspires the wearer to feel good.
Norma’s fascination for technology has been used throughout her career, from the early days in 1964 as a reservations agent at Northwest Airlines trained on a UNIVAC computer. Her early realization of the opportunities of access to real time data inspired many forays into the digital world in her business.
Her website, created in 1996, was the first step for her to have real time connections directly to her clients. “Try before you buy” and “shop like a celebrity” were instituted at this time as well. QR codes were used for shopping in store from mannequin installations, eventually giving clients the chance to see the clothing in person and then save the QR code photo for future purchasing upon arrival at home.
Her headquarters, established on 56th Street in a building she purchased in 1982, created a full concept design company, from the sample room to three floors of retail. As of July 2022 her new headquarters are in the West Village, with 17,000 sq ft for the company office and sample room, as well as installations and events.
Her current collections are designer styling at contemporary price points. The distribution is primarily e-commerce accounts globally and distribution agreements in Europe, Canada, and Australia. Her retail store was replaced by a 24/7 website, with same day service in the New York City metropolitan area for tourists. Norma believes fashion and beauty are enhanced by a healthy, fit body and mind. Her book released in 2021 outlines her research and studies into healthy lifestyle, wellness, and longevity.
When her close friends were dying of aids in the 80’s, her desire was to deal with her grief by understanding the importance of the immune system. She studied under Dr. Andrew Weil, who held retreats for doctors wanting to incorporate proactive health methods into their practice.
“While some of the chemistry went over my head, I was a passionate student and enjoyed meeting the incredible folks who spoke at and were a part of the retreats, like Michael Pollan and Dr. Low Dog, a Native American medicine woman.”
“I had the extraordinary experience of being mentored by Horst, the creator of Aveda, when after the sale of the company he decided to do extraordinary research in the health of women and the interaction of make up, skin, hair, all products and women’s health. He had me read the studies and as I was reading I stopped wearing my red nails and red lips that defined my style for so many years.”
“’I Am Invincible’ is the name of my book and the start of the conversation about aging with power. I explore the decades of a woman’s life and the experiences; however at menopause and the age of 50 a new opportunity for the rest of your life opens and the best experience is a conscious path to longevity and a positive mind.
“My interest in all things for female empowerment has been my purpose in my life. There is nothing more important than feeling good in your body and mind, and when you look good at the same time a woman is invincible.”
“I am fully immersed in this research and exploration personally and my goal at 77 years of age is to share this with women not just post menopause, but women pre menopause so that the choice they make heads them to longevity. Aging with power will enable new dreams, opportunities never considered before for post 50 year olds.
“My experience of meeting my soul mate at 65 is just one example! And I just signed a long term lease.
“More to follow as my dream comes to life!”
Graduate from the Fashion Institute of Technology with a degree in Fashion Illustration.
Marry Mohammed Houssein Kamali.
First job: reservations agent at Northwest Orient Airlines, operating a UNIVAC computer.
Starts going to London—every weekend for four years.
The first KAMALI store opens at 229 East Fifty-Third Street, selling clothing brought from London.
I start designing my own pieces: looks with elaborate appliqués, tie-dye velvets, rhinestone-studded T-shirts, and hot pants—the first in NYC.
The desire to design the vintage of the future leads me to create the All In One Dress and other multi-style jersey designs.
Move shop to a second-floor space at 787 Madison Avenue.
The Parachute collection, made from actual silk parachutes. Diana Vreeland includes them in her Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute curation looking at the future of fashion contrasted.
The Sleeping Bag Coat is born when I cut up my own sleeping bag after a camping trip.
Farrah Fawcett wears her own red NK one-piece for her iconic swimsuit poster, photographed by Bruce McBroom and later considered the best-selling poster
of all time.
Studio 54. Ian Schrager asks me to design the costume for Grace Jones’s New Year’s Eve performance, beginning a long friendship.
On my own. OMO NORMA KAMALI opens at 6 West Fifty-Sixth Street.
My career as a swimwear designer is launched overnight by Francesco Scavullo’s Cosmo cover of Christie Brinkley in the Pull Bikini.
Costumes for the “Emerald City” sequence in Sidney Lumet’s film The Wiz.
Sweats: a new idea for active-casual fashion for day and night. Jones Apparel produces it. Lines at department stores form around the block.
COTY Award for design innovation, celebrating the Sweats collection.
A new license agreement begins in Japan and Hong Kong for the Sweats collection. It will last twenty-five years.
COTY Award for Women’s Fashion Design.
Design and patent the high-heeled sneaker.
I buy and redesign my own building at 11 West Fifty-Sixth Street. It will be my headquarters, retail store, design studio, and showroom going forward.
Earnie Award for Outstanding Children’s Sportswear Design, celebrating the mini version of Sweats.
COTY Hall of Fame Award.
“Fall Fantasy” video, which I write and produce, pioneers an important new direction in fashion marketing by embedding fashion into a story.
My research into the immune system, following the loss of friends to AIDS, begins a commitment to the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
Launch unisex fragrance collection: incense and perfume applied separately or layered for a customized scent.
My fashion films earn a Council of Fashion Designers of America Award.
Interiors magazine award for Best Retail Design.
Produce and direct “Fashion Aid” video for the Live Aid foundation to help fight famine in Africa.
Honored by the Fashion Group’s “salute to women who have made a difference in the fashion industry.”
Costumes for choreographer Twyla Tharp’s provocative and revolutionary dance In The Upper Room after an introduction from Richard Avedon. Twyla becomes a lifelong friend.
I create the Fashion Video Catalogue, a new merchandising tool that shows clothing in motion.
Licensing agreement with Bloomingdale’s for an exclusive collection. My “Sweet Dreams” video accompanies the launch.
Distinguished Architecture Award from the American Institute of Architects for the headquarters.
OMO Home opens in SoHo.
Write and direct “The Reading of the Will,” which wins an Award of Merit from the Video Culture International Video Competition.
President George H. W. Bush presents me with the American Success Award for Vocational Technical Education at a White House ceremony in the Rose Garden.
OMOgym activewear collection debuts at the first fashion shows at the Bryant Park tents. I feature thirty-five athletes from different sports as my runway models.
My entrée into beauty: the NORMA KAMALI skincare line, made with sea algae, enhances skin to replace makeup. I officially go foundation-free.
Launch modern lifestyle travel collection: twenty-five wash-and-wear, easy care, wrinkle-free styles, rolled into a reusable sack.
www.normakamali.com launches with the presentation of my Fall 1996 collection: a virtual reality experience simultaneously broadcast for the Internet. High school alumni Hall of Fame.
Proud to be one of the first designers to launch e-commerce: 18008KAMALI becomes available for purchase online. “Shop Like a Celebrity” try-before-you-buy home service extended to all clients.
Pencil Award for extraordinary commitment to New York City public school education.
The events of 9/11 inspire me to open the Wellness Café. Olive You line debuts after my olive orchard expedition through Europe.
The high-heeled sneaker is featured in the Met Costume Institute’s “Extreme Beauty” exhibition.
Fashion Group International’s Entrepreneur Award.
Plaque on NYC’s Fashion Walk of Fame.
Transform the headquarters, painting it white inside and out.
www.barxv.com launches, offering the full line of products from the Wellness Café.
Wellness nights at the Wellness Café: restorative yoga, tai chi, Pilates, and Gyrokinesis, with teas, talks, and tastings.
CFDA Board of Directors Special Tribute Award.
Ink deal with Walmart to design a collection of classics, all priced under $20.
Launch of the Norma Kamali iPhone app at the SoHo Apple store with accompanying presentation “The Democratization of Fashion and How Technology Is Changing Fashion Presentations.”
We provide customers access through QR codes and direct video interaction.
Fashion Designer of the Year at the American Apparel and Footwear Association’s American Image Awards.
ScanLife barcodes allow shoppers to buy direct off of mannequins and through our store windows.
Named to CFDA Board of Directors.
Commencement speaker at FIT’s Fiftieth Anniversary, where I receive an honorary doctorate.
Begin microsite e-blasts, which became a preferred direct-to-consumer sales method.
“Conversation with Norma Kamali,” part of the Museum of Modern Art’s wellness conference.
Farrah Fawcett’s original red swimsuit is donated to the Smithsonian Institute.
Stop Objectification Campaign begins. “Hey Baby” radio special on Sirius XM brings awareness to the objectification of women.
Kamalikulture—all styles under $100—launches on Amazon and Zappos.
Team up with the American Federation of Teachers at their Detroit Convention to present a fashion show featuring affordable fashion for teachers, with members as models.
Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Award.
JP Morgan empowerment talk discussing workplace objectification streamed globally. Hey Baby film, promoting the Stop Objectification Campaign, is presented at the American Public Health Film Festival.
Re:gender Forbes Summit with a Fire Starter Award for advocacy of women’s empowerment.
Design carpets for “Weaving for a Brighter Future,” handmade by Taliban widows who receive health care and education for their children.
Exclusive distribution through e-commerce continues to expand across Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
The Sleeping Bag Coat is included in the Met Costume Institute’s “Jacqueline de Ribes: The Art of Style” exhibition.
CFDA Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award.
Publication of Facing East, an acupunture handbook written with Dr. Jingduan Yang.
National Arts Club Medal of Honor for fashion design.
Seriously?, my ongoing Sirius XM series on women, begins.
Exhibition at the Tampa Museum of Art celebrating my career.
NORMALIFE! podcast launches. Guests share stories, expertise, and motivation for a healthy lifestyle.
The Museum of Modern Art includes the Sleeping Bag Coat in “Items: Is Fashion Modern?” an exhibition, featuring 111 styles that still hold currency.
Both men and women model my Spring 2019 collection, marking our official move to gender fluidity. Clothes no longer define the person; the person defines the style.
Launch of NORMALIFE, as a democratic and inclusive line of personal care products based upon the three pillars of a healthy lifestyle.
Covid-19 leads me to rethink the future of fashion, and my company, yet again. Reinvention, here I come.
Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Pioneer Award. November 2020 Norma is honored by the Wom- en’s Entrepreneurship Organization at the United Nations for being a distinguished woman, leader, and innovator with inspiring accomplishments.
I AM INVINCIBLE. Norma writes a handbook for women.
City of Design Award. Norma is honored by the Museum of the City of New York.