Q&A with Norma Kamali

The designer on olive oil, innovation and what's better than Botox.

As the creator of Farrah Fawcett's famous red swimsuit, a CFDA board member and one of Women's Wear Daily's "100 designers who shaped fashion," Norma Kamali is a fashion heavy hitter. But she's also a dedicated student of health and alternative medicine. We sat down with the icon over cups of green tea at her airy in-store wellness cafe in uptown Manhattan and found out how she manages to look, act and feel decades younger than her 66 years.

Her beauty secret:
Olive oil. It's a part of every day, from morning to night. I put it on my skin. I drink it. I use it on my hair …

Her happy hour:
I work out every day at 4:45 p.m. I believe in an open office with everybody’s desks in the same room, so by that time there isn’t another thought left in my head or another answer I want to give anybody. I pick up, leave the office, exercise and come back.

Typical workout:
I’ve been doing a lot of ballet barre-inspired classes. And I love Gyrokinesis. It’s rhythmic and opens your spine, and I sweat – I’m soaked when I’m finished. I’m not right if I don’t exercise every day.

Where she feels most at home:
I’m pretty adaptable. A hotel room is as comfortable for me as my own house. I think what would make me feel least at home would be a white picket fence.

What inspires her:
Up until the last five years or so, I was convinced that the '60s was the most creative time ever, but the new technology — and I have to give a nod to Steve Jobs — and the doors it has opened are just extraordinary.

Why she went 3-D:
I went to see Cave of Forgotten Dreams, a documentary by Werner Herzog about cave paintings, and I didn’t know it was a 3-D film. The minute I saw the collar on a man’s shirt pop out, I couldn’t concentrate anymore. All I could think was "I’m doing a 3-D fashion film, and that’s all there is to it." So I made one instead of doing a runway show for fashion week.

Why she hasn't gone under the knife:
I found out that you can get facelifts with acupuncture and Dr. Jingduan Yang's name kept coming up in my research. I used to drive to Philadelphia every Thursday to meet with him, but he just opened an office on 57th street in New York City. He’s a brilliant man. I’m thrilled with the results.

Best insider tip:
Just to breathe properly and not hold your breath, especially when you’re stressed out and anxious. It brings your blood pressure down and just chills you out a little.

When a woman looks the most beautiful:
I think a woman looks best when she’s taking care of herself, and I don’t mean putting on Spanx and all that. When you can take off your clothes and still feel empowered, you’re invincible.

If she had a time machine, she'd visit:
To me, tomorrow is always more exciting than yesterday. What’s to come is a great adventure, and I like doing things first.

Her favorite healthy meal:
There’s a great guy who has a loft in Williamsburg. Every Saturday he puts a menu up on his website, Four Course Vegan, and you sign up for as many people as you want to bring. It’s special occasion vegan food. He prepares the meal, serves the meal, cleans up and says goodbye to you all by himself.

What she’s totally over:
I’m having a hard time with the amount of reality shows. I understand why they exist, but I’m not quite sure that we should be so flooded by them.

What completely relaxes her:
Massage. Totally.

What book is on her bedside table:
Hal Rubenstein’s 100 Unforgettable Dresses. The reason I think it’s such a good book is because there are so many bloggers now — and God bless them — but a lot of them are really young and don’t have a sense of fashion history. They may see something in a collection and think that person thought of it, but it’s really a reference to something from the past. I think the book is really worthwhile.

Her number one reason for taking care of her body:
Self-esteem. And if I have anything to do with it, I want to live as long as I can, and I don’t want to be incapacitated.

The last thing she recommended to a friend:
(Laughs). I can’t tell you that.

Message she’d send to the entire world. (Only catch: It has to be 140 characters or less.):
"Know thyself" is what my 6th grade teacher put in my autograph book, and I never forgot it. I’m not quite sure that I have it worked out completely, but I’m trying.

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