Norma Kamali launches Normalife beauty product range

Norma Kamali
Photo: Michael Waring

Norma Kamali Photo: Michael Waring - Credit: Archant

Norma Kamali may be a fashion designer with 50 years of global success, but her passion for fashion is twinned with a focus on wellness and now she has brought both together with typical NYC flair.

Normalife products

Normalife products - Credit: Archant

I love meeting extraordinary people. There's something life-affirming about spending an hour with anybody with belief and passion and the determination to be the best they can be. Last month I met one such lady, fashion designer Norma Kamali. I confess, I wasn't at all familiar with the name, though those with better fashion credentials than I will know of her work - the creation of the decades-loved iconic sleeping bag coat in the 1970's, the parachute dress and the scarlet swimsuit worn by Farah Fawcett in a now iconic poster photographed in 1976 and still sold by the thousands.

We met in Selfridges Trafford and, after a moment of adjusting to Norma's New York energy levels, we soon settled down for a long chat. While I am actually there to learn about her skincare range (more on which later) I can't resist the opportunity to talk about fashion with an icon of the industry. How did the sleeping bag coat come about, for example? It turns out that the answer is rather prosaic.

'It was 1973 and I was camping - I liked to go camping and rafting - and I had my trusty sleeping bag and it was a very cold evening and I needed to go into the woods to relieve myself. I clipped my sleeping bag around my shoulders and I thought, oh my God - when I get back to the city I am going to make a coat out this! I made the coat out of my sleeping bag without any waste, so even though I wasn't consciously thinking about sustainability, that's what happened. I am still using the same pattern today and one of the things that I am most proud of is that we have never stopped selling that coat. There are times when it's very popular and other people are inspired to do their version and times when smaller, narrower coats are more popular, but the fact that it serves a purpose and that it's like comfort food for the body, means it always sells.'

This is Norma's first mention of sustainability and I wonder if this is a big issue for her.

The iconic sleeping bag coat
Photo: Michael Goldman

The iconic sleeping bag coat Photo: Michael Goldman - Credit: Archant

'It's very challenging. Sourcing materials back to where things are grown is very hard. And then you have to think about the dyes, and how the garment should be washed… I actually think that the best people can do is say we buy too much and throw away too much. We should say "I am going to buy what I love and re-use what I love and if I really love it I may buy two or three of them…" and buy less of the emotional, spontaneous purchases that when we get home we say what was I thinking? That behaviour starts the sensible concept of sustainability and waste. I'm been exploring bamboo and lots of other types of materals, however, if dye the bamboo, what are you using as dyes? If you wash it, where does the water go? If you are using re-cycled plastic bottles, is that healthy against your skin. It's just a chain of questions! So the good news is that while We're still in the discovery of what are the things that really can work, be commercially viable and be appealing to the consumer at the same time, we're asking those questions, we're wanting to figure out ways to do this.'

Like many successful, driven and smart people, Norma has a curiosity about all aspects of life and the determination to get involved. Wellness is a growing concern today, but Norma started the charge 25 years ago, when she opened her Wellness Café in New York, the first in the city to serve raw juices from juice companies and the launch pad for many wellness brands. However, once that bandwagon started rolling, so many businesses and self-appointed gurus leapt aboard, Norma decided that it was time to bring things back to basics.

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'I recently just thought there's too much product available making too many promises and so much that's half used then thrown away. There are ingredients that work and that are timeless so I thought is that if I can present products that I have been using, that I know work, where people will actually remain loyal to them as a comfort product because they work, because they don't complicate life and can be used by both men and women, by people of all ages and all skin types and colours…'

The result of this thinking was Normalife, a collection of four products each to be used on face and body: Clean, a cleanser; Smooth, an exfoliator; Soft, a moisturiser; and Glow; a skin tint that works equally well across all skin colours. They are all so simple, with pure and natural proven ingredients, they feel fabulous on the skin and smell just beautiful. Your daily routine just got simpler, but no less effective. You're welcome.

Norma says: 'I invested my own money in this. This is a passion I have; I am obsessed with quality and safety. This is an opportunity for me to empower women to not have to wear make up at all times. I am Lebanese, my assistant is Korean and we both use the Glow - it's very adaptable to every skin type and skin colour and it keeps the skin fresh looking. I have been using these products since 1993, with only some small changes, and the concept was to keep my skin clean, exfoliate, moisturised and some colour and if I want, add some mascara.'

Norma is 74 years old and looks amazing. While this must be in great part due to her energy and vitality, she's clearly also got it right in terms of her skincare. This collection is perfect for the low maintenance woman, and Norma argues that, at heart, we all are.

'We don't want to have to do too much as then it looks like we're trying too hard and that's not empowering for a woman to look that way.'

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