`For Fashion Designer Norma Kamali, Olive Oil Is 'at the Core of Who We Are' - Olive Oil Times

For Fashion Designer Norma Kamali, Olive Oil Is 'at the Core of Who We Are'

Mar. 16, 2015
Hannah Howard

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Fashionistas know the name Norma Kamali, the star designer, as the cre­ative force behind Farrah Fawcett’s crim­son swim­suit in Charlie’s Angels, shoul­der pads, flowy silk para­chute dresses, and hot pants. We know her as a pas­sion­ate and devoted mis­sion­ary of olive oil. The life of an olive tree is eter­nal,” Kamali says. Olive oil is more impor­tant than fash­ion.“

With a Lebanese mother and a Basque father, Kamali’s child­hood home in New York was always stocked with the golden elixir. Her fam­ily used olive oil for every rea­son — in the kitchen, of course, for my hair, to keep us reg­u­lar.” Kamali’s mom juiced decades before the activ­ity was a verb, She used olive oil for a num­ber of home reme­dies and passed on her pas­sion for vital­ity and health to her daugh­ter.

Kamali received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Fashion Institute of Technology in 1964. A mere four years later, she opened her first bou­tique in New York. Since then, she’s been a cham­pion of exper­i­men­tal design and tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tion.

Ancient olive oil doesn’t seem to fit neatly into the con­stantly chang­ing, novel, trend obsessed world of fash­ion. Olive oil is time­less,” Kamali says. The olive tree has been a very impor­tant part of our his­tory, of the cul­ture of our planet. It’s at the core of who we are.”

For Kamali, fash­ion and olive oil are indeed inex­tri­ca­bly con­nected. Olive oil is a method of pre­serv­ing fit­ness, health, and beauty…when your skin, your hair, your over­all well-being are in a really good place, it almost doesn’t mat­ter what you put on — you will look great.” Beauty starts from the inside and nur­tur­ing out bod­ies with antiox­i­dants and healthy fats found in olive oil is essen­tial. With fash­ion peo­ple, I talk about how it makes them more beau­ti­ful. That gets their atten­tion.”

Photo: Contemporiste

Kamali’s ethos is embod­ied in her Wellness Café, a health and beauty shop meets café, tucked into the back of her flag­ship mid­town Manhattan shop. Customers can try out her dif­fer­ent olive oils driz­zled on air-popped pop­corn, a blank slate on which to expe­ri­ence the fla­vor of her oils. Everything in the shop is plant-based, cer­ti­fied organic, and care­fully cho­sen by Kamali her­self.

Shortly after September 11, inspired less by fads and more by what was impor­tant and eter­nal, Kamali began a quest to learn as much as she could about olive oil, to visit olive groves and take part in the har­vest. We drank a lot of olive oil and became experts on the trees, their age, the effects of fin­ish­ing and pro­cess­ing, acid­ity, we became friends with the grow­ers.”

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Kamali’s olive oils are bot­tled and pack­aged as if they are a fine prod­uct like fra­grance or wine because they are.” She respects great extra vir­gin beau­ties from Italy, Spain, and beyond but fell in love hard­est for the oils of Provence. She cares deeply that her olive oil is the finest qual­ity and as fresh as pos­si­ble. That’s how peo­ple will fall head over heels, as she did.

She also has a line of stun­ning soaps, mas­sage oils, and lotions infused with olive oil. Her mom would be proud.

Olive oil is where food began. We’re going back to square one,” Kamali says, the wild, unprocessed side.” It also hap­pens to be mighty deli­cious.

Norma Kamali will be a speaker at the NYIOOC Conference on April 15.

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