For a woman whose name is often associated with an MTV reality show spun off from "The Hills" and the New York social scene, Olivia Palermo's career in fashion has been quite prolific. Not only does she run an eponymous fashion and beauty website, but she's also collaborated on collections with the likes of Westward Leaning, Aquazzura and BaubleBar, with a stint as creative director at Ciaté London and several high-profile modeling gigs under her belt as well. For her most recent project, Palermo teamed up with Nordstrom on a range of ready-to-wear for its in-house line Chelsea28 — marking the first time she's dabbled in clothing design.
Timed perfectly with the kickoff of New York Fashion Week (where Palermo's a regular front-row fixture), the 32-piece collection lands in stores on Feb. 8 and is centered around what the 29-year-old refers to as "lifer pieces," or those that make up the building blocks of your wardrobe. In the designer's case, these include items like a leather skirt, a long military vest that can be worn open or as a dress (pictured above), silk camisoles that can be worn in place of underpinnings and, of course, denim. To give the traditionally casual material a more formal feel, she used it to create a high-waisted midi skirt with a center slit, a tailored jumpsuit and a pair of wide-legged cropped pants with a braided waistband.
"The whole collection is all about proportions," Palermo said as she walked me through the line last week. "We [ladies] have to be realistic about not always wearing heels — with all of these silhouettes and hemlines, you can wear flats, too." Another key for Palermo was to make sure customers could wear each piece as soon as it hit the sales floor, regardless of the season. "These looks can work all year-round — I travel to different climates all the time, and I could wear [this collection] right away without having to wait three months for it to warm up."
Considering her reputation as a street style star, Palermo's all about practicality and insists that she doesn't fret over her Fashion Month ensembles much in advance — in fact, she only travels with two or three suitcases when she's heading to the shows abroad. "You have to do a nice edit, then rework and restyle pieces you've already worn," she said. "You can always bring more shoes than anything else and play up your accessories, and if worse comes to worse, there's a Zara everywhere." As far as her advice for looking polished and photo-ready throughout packed days, she swears by statement shoes or a great coat, and insists that a pulled-together beauty look is equally crucial. One thing you'll never catch her doing during Fashion Week? Season pushing. "If you’re in strappy sandals and there is snow on the ground, you just look ridiculous," she laughed.
Though Palermo's likely to have one of the best seats in the house at any given runway show, don't expect her to Instagram from the front row. "One thing I wish people would do more is put their phones down and clap for the designers during the walk-throughs," she said, speaking on her social media etiquette tips. "Yes, you can see a lot through a camera. But at the same time, you're very fortunate to be there, so you should give the people involved their proper few minutes of respect. The production, the models, the hair and makeup — everyone puts a lot of time and effort into it, and it should be acknowledged." As many industry folk can attest, being surrounded by guests in pursuit of that one killer photo for the 'gram isn't only annoying, it can be downright rude, and Palermo is not shy about sharing her disapproval. "I just get truly upset! I clap until the last girl walks off — from model to model, you support each other."