Some people look forward to retirement for years, planning winter trips to warm countries and long afternoons spent relaxing.
But Norma Kamali, who turned 77 in June, never once thought about retirement.
In fact, celebrity fashion designer and owner of Norma Kamali Inc. just signed a long-term lease for a new office in Manhattan’s West Village.
“I don’t think you can ever retire from a creative life,” she told CNBC Make It. “Doing this job is like breathing for me.
When friends or colleagues announce her retirement, Kamali admits she gets “anxious”. “I’m like, ‘God, why would you want to do that?'” he explains. “I’m not sure what retirement would even look like for me … but it’s just a different perspective I have on life and I’m so grateful to be doing the work I’m doing. opportunity that I can in this life.”
Kamali opened her first store in New York in 1969 with her then-husband, designing clothes inspired by vintage fashion from the 1930s and 1940s, as well as the bright outfits she saw women wearing on the streets of London.
Her fashion empire has since outgrown the small basement boutique where she started, with celebrities such as Mindy Kaling, Heidi Klum, Christina Aguilera and Eva Longoria wearing her designs on magazine covers and on red carpets around the world.
Yet Kamali’s proudest accomplishments aren’t the accolades she’s received or the fame of her designs in Hollywood: She’s the sole owner of her company and has zero debt.
“I really fought for a creative life and the ability to say no,” she says. “I’ve had a lot of interesting challenges being a woman and owning a business, like people pushing me to sell my company or bring in a partner.”
“I really had to learn how to run a business without any role models or mentors to look up to, and I had to learn how to connect with my employees and get the same respect that men in my position have.”
Humor is and still is one of the strategies Kamali relies on to build strong relationships at work.
“Tasteful humor is the best way to offer someone advice, a comment or even a criticism without hurting their feelings, especially when you want them to benefit from the advice and still feel good about it,” she says.
Looking ahead, Kamali is excited to continue working in fashion for as long as she can. She says she feels good about getting older — as long as someone doesn’t suggest that her age carries limitations.
“When I was 65, I learned how to do the split,” she says. “Challenging myself, trying something new, and practicing discipline until I reach my goal has given me a tremendous amount of confidence that I bring to work… and a strong sense of confidence increases the likelihood of success.”
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