Portrait of designer Norma Kamali

KAMALI TALK: The prolific Norma Kamali likes to keep a low profile despite being a fashion great, having created items such as the sleeping bag coat, the parachute dress and Farrah Fawcett’s one-piece red swimsuit from that iconic Seventies poster. During a talk at the Victoria & Albert Museum, Kamali discussed her designer milestones and future plans.

Kamali is currently working on non-fashion things, including a book, a podcast and a VR project, which she said “is too early to talk about.” She also has an upcoming wellness product line called NormaKamaLife.

“It’s my most immediate project based on the three pillars of a healthy lifestyle: Sleep, diet and exercise,” she said. Kamali said she has always designed with an active lifestyle in mind, such as the creation of her high sneaker shoe and her swimwear line, which she’s had for decades.

“That Farrah Fawcett swimsuit was actually a prototype, it’s not properly tailored, as you can see in the image, she just had it with her when she decided to do an impromptu photoshoot, and now it’s what I’m most known for,” she said.

Kamali has also been focusing her efforts on e-commerce, with her swimwear line being sold on Net-a-porter, Matchesfashion.com and Farfetch.

“I think of the years I had expected women to try on swimwear in a public place like a store. The absolute best place to try swimwear is at home in front of the mirror you are familiar with. It’s that environment where you make the best decision,” she said.

Kamali was also one of the first designers to propel casual sportswear into high fashion: Her Sweats collection was featured in WWD in 1980 in a double-page editorial, “Six Girls with Norma, in Central Park in Fashion Sweats.”

Other designs made for comfort included her sleeping bag coat and parachute dress. Both were designed by chance. “I had my sleeping bag wrapped around me one night and it was so comfortable and warm and it struck me that it could be a coat, so I actually created coats out of sleeping bags,” she said.

“It’s also a great example of designing with sustainability in mind, you reuse it year after year, and you can just sponge clean it and roll it up to store for life.”