Norma Kamali has never run her business in a traditional way. Whether it's her sleeping-bag coat or her wellness café, Kamali is a woman of ideas who has no fear about implementing them. In many ways, she's a being perfectly suited to our current fashion-in-flux moment. "It's game-changer time," said the designer, who showed her Fall collection today at her 56th Street flagship, the first time she's put herself on the fashion calendar in years. All four floors of the store were populated with eight-foot-tall foam core cutouts of model Lais Ribeiro, posing cheekily in the collection of Kamali signatures like dramatic jersey dresses, faux-fur hoodies, pinstriped suiting, parachute gowns, and studded swimwear. "I think it's fun to watch runway shows," Kamali said. "But I also think walking through a forest of eight-foot-tall glamazons and looking at something bigger than life is great, too. They tell my story."
At times it wasn't clear whether Kamali was talking about telling her story to industry folk, or whether she was more focused on communicating to customers. But considering that she has the capacity to produce a capsule of these just-shown clothes—maybe the Spring-appropriate mesh-and-foil striped dresses—and get them onto retail racks within a month, perhaps that's not such a huge distinction. (Immediate production in your proverbial backyard, this one being the Garment District, is one way to collapse the time lag of the current fashion system.)
As for those clothes, Kamali's work has such a continuous and timeless thread, much of it could have been from 1997, 2007, or today. That's not a complaint. The designer does what she does well, and it resonates with her clientele. And ultimately, the customer is who Kamali is focused on getting to. Her latest innovations on that front are a 48-hour trial period and having sales associates use Skype. Said the designer: "Every day, it's another revolutionary idea that gives us the opportunity to make the experience greater."