Some people look forward to retirement for years, planning winter trips to warm places and long afternoons spent relaxing.
But Norma Kamali, who turned 77 in June, has never thought of retiring.
In fact, the famous fashion designer and owner of Norma Kamali Inc. just signed a long-term lease for a new office in Manhattan’s West Village neighborhood.
“I don’t think you can ever retire from a creative life,” she tells CNBC Make It. “Doing this job is like breathing for me.”
When friends or colleagues announce their retirement, Kamali admits she gets “anxious”. “I think, ‘God, why would you want to do that?'” she explains. “I’m not sure what retirement would look like for me … but it’s just a different perspective that I have on life and I’m very grateful to do the work that I do. I want to make the most of everything I can in this life.”
Kamali opened her first store in New York City in 1969 with her then-husband, designing clothing inspired by vintage fashion from the 1930s and 1940s, as well as the vibrant outfits she would see women wearing in the streets of London.
Her fashion empire has since outgrown the small basement boutique where she began building it—celebrities including Mindy Kaling, Heidi Klum, Christina Aguilera and Eva Longoria have worn her designs on magazine covers and red carpets. the whole globe.
However, Kamal’s proudest achievement isn’t the accolades she’s received or the fame of her designs in Hollywood: it’s being the sole owner of her company and having zero debt.
“I really struggled with a creative life and the ability to say no,” she says. “I’ve had a lot of interesting challenges being a woman and running a business, like people pressuring 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 relate to my staff and get the same respect that men in my position would get. ”
Humor has and continues to be one of the strategies Kamali relies on to build strong relationships at work.
“Tasteful humor is the best way to offer advice, feedback or even criticism without hurting someone’s 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, too — unless someone implies that her age brings limitations with it.
“When I turned 65, I learned how to do a split,” she says. “Challenging myself, trying something new, and practicing discipline until I reach my goal gave me an incredible amount of confidence that I bring with me to my work … and a strong sense of confidence makes success more likely. ”
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