CFDA award-winning fashion designer Norma Kamali pioneered the concept of athleisure wear in the 1980s, was an early adapter of green juice, raw food diets and employee meditation sessions, and opened a wellness boutique and juice bar in her midtown Manhattan boutique in 2007 (for reference — that was the year before Goop launched). Now, the 73-year-old (whose fans include Rita Ora, Beyoncé, Sofia Vergara, Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus) is launching NormaLife The Skinline, a democratic collection of four clean, unisex face and body products designed for all skin types, colors, and ages.
Formulated without any parabens, fragrances or petrochemicals, the line is built around natural ingredients such as olive oil (an obsession of Kamali’s, she has her own line of proprietary extra-virgin olive oil), charcoal, cacao, jojoba and aloe, and is intended to support what she believes are the true pillars of health and beauty: sleep, diet and daily exercise.
“Wellness for me really began when friends of mine were dying of AIDS in New York in the eighties,” says the designer. “The idea of having a strong immune system really became part of the conversation.” Kamali started researching how lifestyle could affect health, seeking out wellness innovators like integrative doctor Andrew Weil, food activist Michael Pollan, Aveda founder Horst M. Rechelbacher and Dr. Tieraona Low Dog. “It was pretty early days for these ideas,” she says. “People thought I was completely cuckoo, even my friends.”
What she learned, however, inspired her to open her now 15-year-old Wellness Cafe that peddles a selection of clean beauty products, herbal tinctures, matcha tea and green juice as a way to share her wellness philosophy with a wider audience. “This was when there were maybe two juice places on the Lower East Side,”Kamali says. “Fast forward and now the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction … I mean there’s so many products out there, CBD in everything, and we are left questioning the purpose of it all.”
Overwhelmed by the glut of wellness advice and products boasting the latest must-have hero ingredient, she believes that what is needed now is simplification and a refocus on tried and tested timeless ingredients. Launching in June, the collection is comprised of Clean, a soap-free cleanser for the face and body; Smooth, an exfoliator made with finely ground olive stones (which Kamali recommends using on the hands and the feet for at at-home mani/pedi); Soft, a face and body moisturizer with olive oil; and finally Glow, made with sugar beet and shea butter that she describes as her answer to self tanner.
Above all, Kamali says, “It’s the ritual of self care that is so important, because it sends a subliminal message that you care about yourself; and when you care about yourself, you project that and people pick that up.”