This morning at Chelsea Piers, Norma Kamali held simultaneous showings of her namesake Fall 2012 collection and her new, online-only Kamali Kulture line.
Installed at opposite ends of an expansive warehouse space, Kamali chose an unconventional format for the presentation: for the second season, the American designer launched her collection with 3D fashion films accompanied by blown-up glamazon lookbook cut-outs.
For a presentation modeled on oversized paper dolls, the event had more bubbly energy than a typical runway show. The fashion films showed models dancing away and smiling with a playful, retro spirit which mirrored the quirky sensibility of Lanvin's hit awkward dancing Fall 2011 campaign video.
"I think film is very important," Kamali told me. "You see fashion on real girls who put on clothes and they feel good and they smile and they eat food. I think a fashion show doesn't allow me that opportunity to show that. And I love doing films. I love directing, I love editing."
A still from the Normal Kamali Fall 2012 film
As if pulled out of the video and frozen in time, the glamazon cut-outs were arranged in a sea across the room, forming a kind of mythical fashion labyrinth.
"Fashion is bigger than life," Kamali said. "So instead of sitting and watching girls walk by, if you walk through the forest of glamazons, you get to see the clothes up close and you get to interact with the presentation. And because we all spend so much time with our mobile devices, when we go somewhere, it should be an interactive experience. Watching two films at the same time, walking through the glamazons—we want that! Our bodies crave interaction. This is meant to be an experience."
One of the most curious aspects of the presentation was Kamali's decision to choose such a contemporary, almost futuristic format for a very retro-inspired collection. Crediting 1939 as the inspiration for her Fall 2012 range, the designer turned to the glamour of Old Hollywood style icons Cary Grant and Carole Lombard, and combined that refined elegance with the period's fantastical fairy tale films like Wizard of Oz and Snow White.
Norma Kamali Fall 2012 (left) and Kamali Kulture (right)
Kamali's willingness to embrace technology is central to her online-only Kamali Kulture line. Even though the spin-off is more understated, it was in many ways the centerpiece of today's presentation. Launching next week, Kamali Kulture is an ongoing project, and all the garments will be available for under $100, in sizes ranging from 0-18. Because the new venture won't be split into seasons, the line is focused less on trends and more on offering women timeless, elegant basics. Even though the pieces look contemporary, Kamali notes that some of the designs date back to 1974 (the designer included her iconic "All-in-One" dress which can be transformed in an infinite number of ways, in the Kamali Kulture launch).
"I used to wear a lot of vintage clothes in the 60s. And I always thought, these dresses from the 30s, they're so cool, they're so perfect for now, why don't I design antiques for the present? Why don't I design clothes that will be timeless. The success of this line is that it's 'no time.' You can't tell what year it is. And you buy something and you can have it forever."