The fashion icon says she's she's stronger and smarter than ever before

By Colleen Kratofil
January 13, 2021 12:36 PM
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Norma Kamali knows there's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all timeline to happiness — her own late-in-life love story is proof.

The legendary designer, whose known for her celebrity-loved swimsuits and sleeping-bag coats, broke out on her own when she relaunched her fashion business in 1976 and she hasn't followed a prescribed path in business — or love — ever since.

When Kamali was 25 she was told by an astrologer that she would meet her soulmate at 65. "I said, 'That's not going to happen. I don't think so,'" the fashion designer tells PEOPLE in this week's issue with a laugh.

Forty years later, in 2010, she was introduced to Marty Edelman, a lawyer, by a mutual friend. "We really hit it off," she says. "We felt that this is even deeper than a friendship." The couple got engaged last June, on her 75th birthday.

Marty Edelman and Norma Kamali
| Credit: Shahar Azran/WireImage

"The truth is I really wasn't ready for a soulmate until I was 65," she says. "I was uncooked."

Kamali was previously married to Mohammed (Eddie) Kamali, whom she wed at 19. Together, they opened her first boutique in New York City in 1967. Kamali designed the clothes while he handled the business. But as Kamali recalls, Eddie spent profits on partying and began dating other women. They divorced after 10 years of marriage.

Kamali relaunched her business in 1976 with OMO Norma Kamali, which stood for "on my own." She's gone on to design iconic collections, amass a celebrity fanbase and continues to reinvent herself after 53 years in the industry. Now, she's revealing what she learned about happiness, health and "aging with power" in her new book I Am Invincible (out Feb. 2). "My purpose in my 70s is to share everything I know," says Kamali.

One thing she's focused on is helping redefine the way society thinks about getting older. "A lot of people are frightened that they'll age out of their job or the dating market," she says. "Why should we let that continue? It's insanity."

Credit: Taylor Hill/Wireimage

"Aging is the last thing that is okay to bash or say something derogatory about," she explains. Instead of saying "antiaging" and "anti-wrinkle," she wants people to talk about the process in a "more positive, productive" way.

"I have lines in my forehead," Kamali says. "I'm 75. How could I not?" And even though the designer says she doesn't wear makeup, she says she'll "try everything" when it comes to skin care. She swears by acupuncture face-lifts, though says she's never had a "permanent" procedure.

For more on Norma Kamali, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.

After seeing friends tragically die of AIDS, Kamali turned her focus to living a healthier lifestyle. In 1984, she began eating a plant-based diet, prioritizing sleep and working out every day—she loved Jane Fonda videos—and has followed the regimen ever since. Now, she says she's stronger and smarter than ever.

"Exercise is big-time No. 1," she says, noting that she still works out every day. She prefers group classes, but with gyms closed due to COVID-19, she's taken to running up and down stairs and bought a treadmill desk. "Sitting is like smoking a cigarette!" she says, bemoaning Zoom meetings. Her other go-to routines include active mediation (seen in the Instagram below), which includes a movement method called Gyrokenisis, to "temper" stress and feel "restored."

With marriage on the horizon (she hopes her post-COVID celebration will be "a big dance party"), and business booming thanks to her quarantine-friendly casual wear, Kamali is just getting started.

"I read studies that say it's possible for a human to live to 120," she explains. "If I project that's what I want to do, then I really have to be conscious of everything I do — what I'm eating, how I'm living." And if she doesn't hit that mark? "I'll get a little further than if I just meander and don't thoughtfully take care of myself," she says.

One self-care practice she picked up from female centenarians is to keep moving, which is why she often shares videos of herself dancing on Instagram: "I do that to say, 'I know I look like an idiot and I don't care.' It's so freeing."

I Am Invincible (out Feb. 2) is currently available for pre-order.