photography by MICHAEL WARING
Norma Kamali is a designer, wellness expert, and all around lifestyle goddess who has perfected the art of aging—or, more accurately anti-aging. She created her independent namesake fashion line in 1967, and it’s still going strong. She opened one of the first concept and wellness cafes in 2002. She wrote a wellness book with Chinese medicine practitioner and acupuncturist Dr. Jingduan Yang on how to feel young. And she has a new handbook out this fall on aging for women in every significant age group—from puberty to older age.
Oh, and she looks decades younger than her 72 years—so what's her secret?
During the event series "Matcha Mornings" at Domino favorite Chillhouse in New York, Kamali chatted with girl boss Cyndi Ramirez and provided some insight into her seemingly magical routine, talking all things aging, sugar, self-esteem, and lying to yourself.
Up In The Gym
“Seven days a week, no excuses, it’s simply part of my routine. When you do it everyday, it's not a thought process anymore. You brush your teeth everyday, it’s methodical and systematic. Putting it in your diary and inserting it into your schedule, you’ll do it, you’ll get it done.”
It is important though to understand your body, metabolism, and well-being, and what makes you feel good with exercise. For Kamali, if she doesn't spend her energy daily in a healthy way, she can't focus or remain calm. Can't get to the gym? “Do it yourself. Push-ups, squats, lunges, crunches. Start with 10 each and build up to higher intervals. It’s really incredible what a push-up can do for a woman. Planks, too. No mystery to working out: Just do it.”
Don’t Fight It
“I don't think about trying to look young, that's sort of the devil. My face says my age, but it's healthy. Trying to hide wrinkles, etc, you begin to look make believe. But if you look health with wrinkles, that's cool. The key for me with anti-aging though is working out everyday.”
Yep, I know, this one isn’t fun. Kamali even cut fruit from her diet because of its natural sugar content. “Listen to your body. If you're going to have a glass of wine, don't have fruit or sugar the next day. If you want to have something to age you, go for the sugar, it'll take you there quick. It just ages the cells in your body and deteriorates your body quickly.”
It's Okay to Have a Vice
But try for just one. Norma’s is bread, with really high quality olive oil. She enjoys it while eating it, and doesn’t beat herself up, but bread isn’t a daily occurrence for her, more for a treat.
Be Honest, But Be Kind To Yourself
“Self esteem issues come from all the issues women hide, right? We wear Spanx to be thinner, or false eyelashes to look prettier, or hair pieces in our hair, or bras that make us look a different way. We all have secrets about how we look. But we actually look like the person that’s standing in front of the mirror after you take a shower.
Work on feeling good about that image—your body image and body self esteem are definitely going to help you feel good about yourself. You have to work on that. It takes time, and courage, and a lot of embarrassment. As you get older, and you realize this is who you are, ‘This is what my nose looks like, and I love it. This is what my hair looks like, and it’s healthy. And I’m a healthy version of me.’ Then you start to feel, ‘You know what, if you don’t like it, then it’s too bad, this is me.’
As long as you are your authentic self, not some make believe version—how beautiful is that? No one can be as individual or special as you are. Your individuality is key to feeling beautiful.”
Take Time to Detach
“I’m still trying to figure out how to balance it all. I’m trying to balance my work, which is my obsession, and this guy, who is incredible (I met my soulmate seven years ago. I’m so grateful, I didn’t think I’d ever meet my soulmate.). I do know I need to manage my stress. Meditation is really important, but I’m not going to cross my legs and 'ommm.' I get up in the morning, I’ve got a business to run, I have staff to pay.
But I learned how to breathe. When I’m stressed out, I go to the bathroom, turn out the light, put the toilet seat down, and sit there, and slow breathe. As slow as I can until I almost don’t feel myself breathing, and I feel a wash come over me, and you sit for a minute. And then you go on with your day. It recalibrates you. Sometimes I’ll go to the bathroom three or four times in one day to breathe, and no one knows what I’m doing. But there is a point where I have to do that, and you can do it at any time or anywhere. Go where no one will bother you, ideally darker space, leave your phone at your desk.
I think detaching from your phone is important. I’m obsessed, too; it’s my lifeline, too. But there are times when you have to stop, nothing will change if you step away from it for awhile to take time for yourself. I really think even having it in the room, it’s present and there.
Don’t Lose Your Light
“There are women and girls in this world who have the vitality and spirit of life in a very positive way. But there are people younger or older who are missing that spirit—they are sort of dead inside. It doesn’t have to be, you really can change it and awaken it. Keep a positive attitude about life, that spirit of being alive really keeps you young and curious. And you should always support other women. Our ‘job’ as women are to support each other and make women feel good about themselves—even when one is making you feel bad, send love back to them.”
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