NEW YORK — Freshly bathed in white and light, Norma Kamali’s newly renovated Midtown store now looks more like an art installation than a place to shop.
Located at 11 West 56th Street, it is also a launching pad for her new spa collection and line of wellness products. The designer bought the building in 1983 for her street-level store, offices and design space. Last year, she set out to find a location with a “pure and almost heavenly” feel for a second store.
The native New Yorker came across her grandmother’s homeopathic recipes and decided to market her own products with a feel-good philosophy, as a reaction to the impact she felt after the terrorist attacks two years ago.
“I thought what people needed more than anything was to feel good and have things that are good for them, too,” Kamali said.
Once the homespun topicals and ingestibles were finessed with 11 different fragrances, the designer set out to find a space to sell them in.
“I looked all over Manhattan for the prototype store with hopes of rolling out more,” Kamali said. “I realized the best thing to do would be to integrate the products with the clothing and to make that the prototype.”
She wound up designing the space’s new decor herself. The spa collection anchors the main floor, with a handful of thermal outfits suspended by wires from the ceiling and interspersed with a few white Grecian statues. Light boxes, mirrors and whitewashed walls and floors serve as a backdrop. A racer-back tank, jogging pants with a drawstring waistband and zip-front hoodies are among the spa items, which the designer calls Interactiveactive.
Designed to be fluid, the store will be a constant experiment, with artistic-looking displays taking new twists just as the designer’s clothes do. Cluttered it’s not — hangers are nowhere to be found. Personal shoppers radio requests to the stockroom, since only one size of select pieces are displayed on the sparse sales floor.
Kamali’s signature fragrance is being relaunched and can be purchased with or without dried flowers from Holland. The designer’s signature sportswear, swimwear and some vintage apparel and hats are also available in the store.
Another throwback is the sleeping bag coat — something Kamali came up with while freezing during an overnight camping trip in the Seventies. It became the official coat of Studio 54’s doormen. Today’s version is a belted, reversible style.
First-year projected volume for the store is at least $7.5 million. Wellness products and the spa apparel will be sold through select retailers.
Kamali is considering sharing her enthusiasm for yoga and Pilates by having weekly classes in the store’s lower level. In addition, a permanent water bar may be set up nearby.
At least one shopper liked the decor as is, sounding impressed with Kamali’s keen eye.
“What exquisite architecture,” said one woman, touring the near empty back room last week. “Who designed this?”