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Last season Norma Kamali did 3-D; for fall, it's an under-$100 line and cardboard glamazons
NEW YORK (AP) ' Norma Kamali went for 3-D video and online shopping over a traditional runway show when she rolled out her spring line last September. She earned thousands of new followers on Facebook and a nice bump in business in the process.
This time, for fall, the technology-obsessed designer kicked it old school, relatively speaking. She set up eight-foot cardboard glamazons in a showroom on a Hudson River pier and set them against a couple of regular video screens showing real models prancing in the same clothes her cardboard-cutout models wore.
At 66, with 45 years in the industry, Kamali's use of technology to sell clothes has made her a pioneer. Other designers innovate, of course. They have cool websites, tweet like mad, use Facebook and blog, but Kamali has earned accolades as a pioneer from tech geeks who follow fashion and, perhaps more importantly, cultivating customers of all shapes and size, not just those who wear zero.
The purpose of Wednesday's presentation at New York Fashion Week was twofold: to promote her premium brand OMO and to introduce KamaliKulture, a new under-$100 selection for all occasions and in sizes up to 18. The line will be available in early March online only, on KamaliKulture.com and at Amazon and Zappos.
"I've decided that in my career, empowering women should really be my goal. Women have been telling me through the years, 'I used to wear your clothes but I don't fit in them anymore, I can't afford them,' and I would just feel guilty."
KamaliKulture includes timeless, corporate-ready suits in black and gray pinstripes, and easy-to-care-for jersey pants and swingy skirts above the knee. There's a lot of comfy jersey in black for evening and every day, and striped skirts and tops and animal prints.
"Everybody needs to look smart," Kamali said. "We're not all in the fashion industry all the time. If go to the bank I don't want to look like a dingbat. I want to look like I have a brain in my head."
KamaliKulture is the type of collection that fits into the New York fashion previews as QVC and more mass market and mall brands have shown up, something that doesn't happen in Milan and Paris.
"It's a different time," Kamali said. "We're in a different social climate. Women have a budget. We all have to work. There are very few women who have the luxury of that choice of not working now, and we all want to have new clothes because it makes us feel good."
And where does that fashion story unfold? Online, where more and more people shop each year, she said.
"The mid- to late-'70s were the peak of the fashion designer," she said. "It was the exalted profession, then it changed. It went toward celebrity, but the real star today is technology. Ignoring that opportunity is closing your eyes."
Follow AP coverage of New York Fashion Week at http://twitter.com/ap_fashion or http://www.twitter.com/litalie