Norma Kamali has been around fashion her entire life due to the fact that she was born and raised in New York City. Her fascinating life started in 1945 and as a young child, she dreamt of becoming a painter, not a fashion designer. Her mother believed in more traditional morals and was against the idea. So when it came to her studies, she decided to study fashion illustration, here, at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She received her bachelor’s degree in fashion illustration in 1964, but had difficulties finding a job with her major so she resorted to a job at the Northwest Orient Airlines as an airline reservation clerk. She quickly took advantage of the discounted flights she was able to receive and flew to London every opportunity she got. In London, she was able to study the fashion styles she saw on the streets and in stores learning about the mod fashions that was seen everywhere. She then decided to bring the fashion she saw in Europe back to New York, opening up a small shop with her husband at the time in 1969. She then began to create her own designs inspired by the Europe fashion of the sixties. Norma quickly started to become famous when she was recognized in Harper’s Bazaar magazine for her bold designs after they paid a visit to her boutique. After the success of her boutique, Norma decided to start her own clothing line. She had no background in sewing or pattern drafting, but she still challenged herself to make her own collection. Norma was successful with the start of her new line and was forced to expand her store on Madison Avenue. This is when she created her most popular collection, “parachute”. The “parachute” collection consisted of real parachutes taken from the army store that featured drawstrings for the control of the fabric. Her parachute designs are now in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art after it was featured in Diana Vreeland’s Vanity Fair exhibition at the museum. Shortly after her shop moved, Norma created one of her most famous designs, the “sleeping bag” coat. The “sleeping bag” coat idea came from a camping trip she attended, realizing it was extremely comfortable to have a huge sleeping bag wrapped around her body at all times. Norma was very creative with her designs, making things you would never find attractive end up looking very fashionable. Once an idea popped in her head, she went straight to work designing something average turning it into a must-have fashion item. Norma didn’t just create regular apparel for women; she also had her own swimwear collection that became an international demand after Christie Brinkley modeled her “pull bikini” on the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine. Ever since then, her swimwear collections became the most popular in the industry and are still seen today just as they were originally introduced. Following her divorce in 1977, Norma opened her own business and retail store at 6 West 56th Street and started her OMO line of clothing, which standed for On My Own. That same year she was chosen to design for the costumes for the citizens of the Emerald City scenes in the film “The Wiz”. During that same time, she created her famous sweat suit collection when she started working with sweater-shirting that was a fabric only used for athletics and sports wear. She created jackets, skirts, and baggy trousers out of this fabric. And her skirts were the very first skirts to sell in bulk since the mini skirt of the sixties. Norma also created the infamous high-heeled sneakers, which are back in style today. As the eighties approached, Norma started to become more and more acknowledged for her incredible talent and effect on modern fashion. In 1981, she received her first Coty award for Design Innovation and the following year received another Coty...
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