Norma Kamali

In the Upper Room

Norma Kamali has always been known as a designer who follows her own path. A native New Yorker, Norma Kamali is a graduate of Washington Irving High School and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Fashion Institute of Technology in 1964. Four years later (l968), she opened her first boutique in New York, featuring her first designs made with elaborate appliqués, lizard and leather patches, snakeskins and tee shirts with rhinestone studs.

In 1969 she introduced "Hot Pants" to the American market. Editorial coverage of her designs and shop were featured in Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. In l974, the Kamali shop moved to Madison Avenue and Kamali designed "Parachute Clothing" made from actual silk parachutes. The following year (l970), she designed the "Sleeping Bag Coat."

In 1976 Kamali opened a shop in Los Angeles and created her I Love New York promotion for Madison Avenue retailers. The following year (1977), she introduced her first wholesale swimwear collection and a Cosmopolitan cover featuring one of her bikini designs created an international demand.

In July 1978, Kamali opened her own business and retail store OMO (On My Own) Norma Kamali. In the same year she designed the costumes for the Emerald City scenes of Sidney Lumet's film The Wiz. That same year, Diana Vreeland included Kamali's parachute designs in her Vanity Fair exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where they are now in the museum's permanent collection.

In 1983, Kamali opened her new OMO Norma Kamali flagship store on 56th Street in New York and began working on fashion videos. Her Fall Fantasy (1984) video pioneered an important trend in fashion merchandising. The following year (1985), she directed Fashion Aid, a video for the New York Honorary Committee designers in a benefit for the Live Aid Foundation fundraiser by the fashion industry.

For her work in fashion videos, she was a recipient of three "Best Category Awards" at the First Annual Video Awards; and a Special Community Service Award for Fashion and Video (1986); and introduced her video catalogue the same year.

Another passion of Norma's is wellness. Shortly after 9/11, she opened a Wellness Café at her flagship store. It started with her search for the best olive oils in the world to products made from the olive tree not just as a component but the core content. She soon discovered more and more people interested in solutions to what we are finding more and more to be harmful to our health. She believes firmly that exercise, dancing and overall fitness is what truly empowers women.

She regularly contributes to the Huffington Post, (which focuses on women over 40) as well as She feels this will allow her to share the information she is finding to the everyday challenges the toxic planet presents us with. By reaching people through her influence as a Fashion Designer, and presenting her wellness ideas through vanity, it has enabled her to reach a broader influence of people that wouldn't normally classify themselves as "wellness people."

She is the winner of numerous awards including: two Coty Awards -- in 1981 (for her Sweatshirt Collection design innovation), and in 1982 (for Women's Fashion Design); the Coty Hall of Fame Award (1983); the Council of Fashion Designers Award (1983) for outstanding women's fashion designs for 1982; the Earnshaw Preview "Earnie Award" for Outstanding Children's Sportswear Design (1983); the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising's "FIDM Award," in Los Angeles (1984); the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Award in recognition of her innovative use of video in the presentation and promotion of fashion (1985); the Distinguished Architecture Award from the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (1986); the American Success Award for Vocational Technical Education (FIT), presented to her by President Bush in the White House Rose Garden (1989); the Pencil Award for her extraordinary commitment to New York City Public School Education and the Fashion Outreach Style Award (1999); the Business Outreach Award from the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce (2001); the Entrepreneur Award from the Fashion Group and her induction into the 2002 Fashion Walk of Fame by the Fashion Center Business Improvement District; and the Special Tribute
Award by the Board of Directors of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (2005). In 2010, Norma was presented with an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Fine Arts from FIT and was honored as one of WWD's "100 Designers Who Shaped Fashion." The following year, the red Norma Kamali swimsuit that helped make Farrah Fawcett a 1970's icon was donated to the Smithsonian. Norma currently sits on the CFDA Health Initiatives Board, which focuses on awareness, education and safety of people working in the Fashion Industry.

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