While the name Norma Kamali might not immediately spark recognition, the esteemed designer’s iconic pieces should look familiar. Kamali (below) is responsible for fashioning sleeping bag coats in the ’70s, igniting the shoulder pad trend in the ’80s, and glamorizing swimsuits (see Farrah Fawcett’s famous red one-piece, which has been memorialized at the Smithsonian since 2011).
Design accolades and achievements aside, Kamali is, what’s more, a wellness advocate. Just last year, she spearheaded a movement to stop female objectification with the launch of her site StopObjectification.com. This year, she’s using her talent to empower women in Afghanistan with a collection of carpets.
Carpets? Yes. Kamali has teamed up with the Fatema Bint Mohammed Bin Zayed Initiative (FBMI), an organization that arms itself with the mission to foster sustainable development and provide women with employment in the carpet production industry (where they can use skills they already possess), to design 12 carpets—and 80 percent of the proceeds goes back to the Afghan women.
“Afghan women were impoverished and without resources,” Kamali tells InStyle.com. “Any opportunity to help women become empowered through knowledge and skills is a step to help them reach their potential and change the world one woman at a time.
Aptly titled “Weaving for a Brighter Future,” Kamali’s ethical carpets are inspirational in themselves; each one is named with an empowering word (Potential, Courage, and Gratitude are examples).
And as someone who designs to the beat of her own drum, Kamali’s graphic contemporary creations are unlike any other Afghan carpets on the market—a deliberate move on her part. “The first thing was to move away from the old concept of an Afghan carpet and eliminate anything that looked traditional, including color,” she explains. “I incorporated graphic print designs that could be treated as art, but were also simple and easy to fit into a global market place. The black-and-off white is neutral for any home; the furniture, art and paint can create colors in the room.”
From a design standpoint, she says working with rugs was no different from clothing: “Design is always the same, you know what you want to achieve, you learn about the end purpose and you are aware of the manufacturing capabilities. The end purpose for me is to empower women in both cases.”
To be a part of Kamali’s campaign, place an order for a carpet at normakamali.com.
And make sure to log on to InStyle’s Facebook page on Tuesday, June 17, at 1 p.m. ET (note the time change), for a Q&A with the designer herself!