Crunch Time with Norma Kamali!

by Kristen Heinzinger
Norma Kamali

An early advocate of a versatile wardrobe for an active lifestyle, Norma Kamali has transformed her showroom to include a full-on Wellness Café. A health junkie with a penchant for barre classes, Kamali invited us to join her for her daily fitness sesh at Physique 57 in NYC, where she’s been a regular for 10 years. Post-workout and over green tea, we catch up.

That class was intense. How are you feeling?
I feel fine! The class is a very fast hour. You can’t look at the clock; you just have to keep going.

Were you always into exercise and health?
I didn’t consciously think about it, because my mother was really into aerobics. She had vitamins everywhere, and she was always juicing. I was so embarrassed. Nobody else’s mother was doing this! Now I realize, she knew what she was doing. By my thirties, I decided I was going to do that too.

Would you say your life is more stressful now?
I don’t think there’s a person who will tell you life has gotten easier. These days, working out is required. If you don’t, the stress is deadly. This industry is all about deadlines and stress. It’s not only bad for aging, but it’s bad for your health. When you’re not healthy, you don’t look pretty.

How often do you take a class at Physique 57?
Every day. It’s a place where I can’t think about what I was just doing. I sweat it out, and have a chance to restart. It becomes addictive and you feel strong. When you feel strong, you feel empowered. Twice a year I have my company take three days of Physique classes; the more people in my company who work out, the better performance is going to be. I just know it.

Do you have favorite instructors?
I do, but they’re all so good. I just take the class that fits into my schedule. But nobody in their right mind would take [today’s instructor] Chad twice in a row.

Didn’t you just take Chad two days in a row?
[Laughs] Yes, because it worked with my schedule.

Do you always take the advanced classes?
Usually; they push me and I can feel a difference in my body. Each time, it gets easier.

Do you ever take a break from Physique 57?
Only when I travel, but then I do it myself. But there’s nothing like the competition. I’m competitive and whoever’s in the room, I have to compete with!

What’s the most challenging part of the class?
The barre stuff. It doesn’t look hard, but it’s intense.

Do you have any ballet or barre training?
When I was little. Nothing memorable. I’ve seen photos of me in tutus with bruises on my knees. I remember being more of a tomboy than a ballerina.

So why did you opt for a barre class?
I was taking a circuit-training class with this guy Radu, who trained people for the Olympics. I hurt my knee and thought, Why am I doing this? So I had to find something else. Physique 57 was the nearest thing.

Then what?
I booked five classes right away. By the fifth class, I was feeling every muscle in my body. By the eighth class, I started to see some definition.

Do you enjoy working out to the techno they play?
The beat helps with the counting. If you didn’t have the music, it’d just be like, When is this going to end?

So, update us on the Wellness Café…
It’s part of the new direction I’m going in. The idea is to build a strong immune system. It has solutions…for sleep, for stress, for dry skin, all plant-based.

And what about the collection? What’s new?
Everything is washable and wearable year-round, except for the coats. It has swimsuits, clothes for the office, evening pieces, but nothing is exclusive.

Do the classes inspire ideas for the collection?
Not during the class…then, I’m just trying to breathe! But I’m very aware of what feels good, and how to make it more convenient to get from work to a class. I’m designing more active and reversible pieces. Right now I’m crazy addicted to layering prints. Integrating an active lifestyle into style and personal care into your work is what women have to do now. That’s modern. If you have style, you can do whatever you want. You can be anything you want.

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