How 9/11 Changed Norma Kamali

The innovative designer shares how a tragedy helped her focus on well-being.

by Norma Kamali • Blogger of the Moment
norma kamali image
Photograph: Norma Kamali

After 9/11, I thought hard about what I do and if it changes people’s lives in any meaningful way. As a fashion designer, I wondered if there was real value in my work. People are out there finding cures for cancer while I am worrying about a quarter inch on a hem.

I get feedback from clients telling me how they feel when they wear my clothes. It could be that a style they wore captured a wonderful life experience that is now permanently fixed in their memory. An evening, event, or marker in their lives, and exactly how they felt about it, is memorialized in that piece of clothing. So I believe that what I do matters.

I know how much clothes can empower women, in changing how they look and feel. We females are always judged first on our appearance; any recognition of our achievements will usually be preceded by observers' verdict on how we look. I personally always stand straighter and move through the world with more swagger when I think I look good. It makes us feel powerful—invincible, even.

But we are only temporarily empowered by what we are wearing and how well we are wearing it. What happens when we gain weight, feel insecure about our bodies or our age or how of-the-moment our style is? We lose the confidence we had, and with it our feelings of power.

My mission became finding a way to empower myself and other women long term, maybe even permanently.

My crossover to wellness expands the empowerment experience, not just with clothing, but with fitness, health and the true beauty that flows from them. I learned that exchanging old lifestyle habits over time, as slowly or as quickly as I was ready to, was the way to long-lasting empowerment.

Having your hair done, applying makeup perfectly and wearing a new dress has validity, but when you can show your face without makeup, take off your clothes and feel good about your body, and be healthy, strong and fit, with endurance and stamina to burn—that is empowering!

If you can feel sensual, sexual and secure because you are feeling good from the inside out, no matter what age you are, you are truly empowered. This is hard-core invincibility. This is wellness for the modern woman. Since 9/11, I have been gathering information to help women empower themselves physically and mentally, and I believe that with one step at a time, changes can happen and rewards will quickly follow. And perhaps when women are empowered in that fashion, equal attention will be paid to their beauty and their ideas.

Norma Kamali began designing more than 40 years ago, and is well known for her fashion innovations. Many of her designs remain as popular today as they were when first introduced. Her wellness collection incorporates fitness, health and beauty, taking into account the whole woman. Learn more at her Web site, Norma Kamali.

Read Katherine Stone's "Postpartum Depression Led to My Reinvention," a story from our latest blogger of the moment.

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First Published August 1, 2011

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