Norma Kamali has become a “downtown girl” after many years of being an uptown one. Visiting her new West Village space I encountered an army of mannequins dressed in the collection and a designer delighted with her new digs and her balance sheets. “Our business has been just crazy, crazy, crazy. I’m always asking what’s going on? Why do people want this from me now? and I listen to what they want,” said Kamali. Her reading of the zeitgeist is that people want to feel good. “There’s no controlling the world situation, the wars, the government decisions that are being made that we don’t agree with,” she continued. “All of that takes a toll. I never thought I would say this in my entire life, that clothes are the answer, but I think we’re at that point, where there’s very little we can do, but we can get dressed.”
For spring, Kamali lifts the mood with “dopamine colors.” There’s an eye-popping selection of neons, and, of course, pink, but done, the designer pointed out, “in five different fabrications so that the textures give you shades of pink.” You can always count on Kamali for a metallic (silvery and pearl lamé are featured here) and some swim/sport elements. New this season, by demand, is a pickle ball dress, which fits right in with other pieces like legging and puff joggers. For swim, Kamali brought back the high cut à la Olivia Newton John and Jane Fonda, which she had done back in the day. This time they are reversible.
Kamali is happy to see a return to bias cutting. It’s one of her favorite techniques and she describes it as having a carefree attitude. She used it for dresses that can be worn with the top folded down over the waist like a deconstructed skirt, a nice option for over one of her useful hooded catsuits.
Reissuing designs like the Diana dress, which remains in demand, is one way Kamali creates collector’s pieces. She also does so with her seasonal prints. For spring there’s a slithery python, and she photographed a cable-knit and blew it up into a print on a light, easy care material for a “sweater that you could wear year round.” She also made a print based on an archival design of studded leather, “that three people could afford” in its original form, the designer joked. Translating a dimensional design into a flat one means that the look is more accessible. “I can’t make expensive clothes, I can’t do it, I don’t want to do it,” she said. “I don’t want people to feel bad because they spent too much money on clothing; I want them to have collectibles and things that will make them feel good.”