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Norma Kamali has thrived in the fashion business for over 50 years and remains the sole owner of her namesake company. As a designer, her aim is to create clothing that helps women reach their potential. A native New Yorker, 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 designs made with elaborate appliques, lizard and leather patches, snakeskins and t-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 she designed “Parachute Clothing” made from actual silk parachutes. The following year (l970), she designed the “Sleeping Bag Coat.” Other innovations include sculptural swimwear and multi-style clothing made for ease of care and travel.
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 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. Also in 1978, 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 Shop and began creating fashion videos. Her Fall Fantasy (1984) video pioneered an important trend in fashion merchandising. The following year, 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). She introduced her video catalogue the same year.
Kamali’s limited edition couture, swimwear and outerwear collections are exclusively featured in her own boutique with Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills, and also featured in Brown’s in London. 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 for outstanding women’s fashion designs (1983), 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).
Ghost Catcher (2019) represents Kamali’s latest designs to be added to American Ballet Theatre repertoire. Kamali has sought to design costumes exemplifying gender neutral style for this latest collaboration with Twyla Tharp. She previously created the costumes for Tharp’s In The Upper Room (1988) and Rabbit and Rogue (2008).