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Image / Fashion

Exclusive: Olivia Palermo Talks Running In Heels, That Wedding Outfit and How To Get Ahead In The Fashion Industry

09th Oct 2015

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 07: Olivia Palermo attends the New York City Ballet 2015 Spring Gala at David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center on May 7, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

And now for a sartorial and beauty icon who needs no introduction whatsoever, Miss Olivia Palermo, cover star of the October issue of IMAGE. The trendsetter who takes inspiration from young women’s street style, old classic movies and more is here in Dublin to launch her exclusive collection with beauty brand Ciat?. From delectable nail polishes in a choice of warm hues to the ultimate beauty palettes for gals on the go, it’s apparent that Olivia’s heavily involved with such collaborations. She’s all about authenticity and accessible fashion and beauty, hence her appeal the world over. Here we sit down with the reality TV star turned sartorial businesswoman to talk about everything from sleeping with make-up on to her philanthropic work, her best career advice and her tips for working a pair of thigh high boots like a pro.

What can fans look forward to with this collection?
Well quality, for one thing. Really great formulas to make women feel beautiful and know that they can always come back to Ciat? and not find a change in product or a lesser quality. I think a lot of other beauty companies, once they’ve established themselves, they tend to go the cheap route. But women want to feel beautiful, and they spend a lot of money on products, so that’s why we’ve created happiness for them. Happiness in a palette. With these palettes (fall and holiday) the colours and textures are really transitional from day to evening and can also be worn all year round. Your beauty routine’s got to be easy; you don’t want to have to hoard around tonnes of stuff.

Meet @oliviapalermo this Saturday when she makes a visit to @officialbrownthomas, Dublin! #OliviaPalermo #oliviapalermoxciatelondon #dublin

A photo posted by Ciat? London (@ciatelondon) on

Your favourite piece from the collection?

[Points to gorgeous red nail polish] This is Hutch, a red nail polish that’s nicknamed after my mother. My mother and I’ve been getting pedicure and manicures every other week since I was probably an infant so an enthusiasm for nails is pretty instilled in me. I’ve always wanted to create a nail polish and even before Ciat? approached me, I noticed that all companies across the board, with the exception of maybe one other, the polish would literally just chip. So now I bring these around the world with me and every time a manicurist tries it they’re absolutely blown away.

What are your beauty rituals?

I get a manicure every four or five days. Fingers and toes. With make-up I don’t stray very far with products but I change up the colours sometimes. I think it’s important to do a little switch up every once in a while and it’s the same with skincare. I’ve always used Dr Dennis Gross’ facial toner, since I was 14 and he sells on QVC so I have to buy fast. That’s one key product that my skin just needs.

Would you ever commit the mortal sin of letting yourself fall asleep with your make-up on??

That’s just not the person I am. I always like to just wash away my day before I get into bed. I always take a shower before I sleep. I’ve never slept in my make-up, I’ve never ever done it. I would feel like a terrible despicable person, like just gross that I’m sleeping in the same make-up from the night before. Any make-up artist would be ashamed. My own mother would be ashamed. I have too much respect for my own skin.

For so many women around the world you are the ultimate beauty and fashion icon, but who does it for you?
Um, young stylish girls I see all around the world on my travels. I see them beaming with confidence and they look so fabulous, if I’m in the car and they’re walking by. I just love street style. Of course Bill Cunningham is the original photographer for that, and growing up I’d see his Sunday Styles and these amazing curations of what he did. I understand that street style aspect of having that every day, very wearable feeling. And of course I take inspiration from runways, old classic movies, architecture and inspiration from travelling.

How would you sum up your own personal style?
There’s always a tone and an aesthetic to what I wear. There’s always some structure or colourful element and some textures. If I’m going for a Bohemian look my boots might be more structured or my bag, there’ll be some element to pull it together. I don’t need or want to be overly polished but there has to be a groomed feel to it. I like to feel pulled together.

Olivia Palermo Brown Thomas

You’re a major Valentino fan, what is it about his collections that you adore?
Valentino’s collections are always without fail the highlight of any fashion week. I just love the brand. I could wear it every day.

You’ve spoken before about always having to feel comfortable in what you wear, do you think that’s a motto that all women should live by?
Yes absolutely, because if you’re wearing fierce heels that are so uncomfortable and you teeter totter down the street, you look ridiculous.

Top tip for coping with heels?
You should just take a knife to the soles of the shoes and scrape a little grip into them. I remember I was late for a Carolina Herrera fashion show in New York and I just got out of the car and just ran (she says breathlessly). I was running uphill. If you go back to a photo of my all grey outfit from the Carolina Herrera show you’ll see the shoes I’m talking about. I came bounding into the show just before I started saying to one of the girls from the brand ‘I’m here! I’m here!’ The key is to run on the balls of your feet because that’s where your grasp is.

What would you wear on a down day when you’re just chilling out?
Leather pants, a cashmere sweater and a pair of ballet flats.


On the subject of sweaters, we can’t not ask you about your amazing wedding ensemble. Was that something you pondered for a long time or did you just know it was for you?
I just knew. I worked really closely with the team at Carolina Herrera, I looked at the collection and at the archives too and together we created my dream look.

Had you been dreaming of it for a long time?
I think everybody wishes I was thinking about this whole big wedding but I just didn’t. I always knew I wanted a small wedding and we thought maybe we’d do something with friends after but I have my hands full with so many projects and other priorities. I think all that matters is the two people getting married and if you can count the people that matter to you on a daily basis on one hand and have them there, that’s all the support you need. We had a really really nice day but it wasn’t over the top. It’s also way less stressful and you can spend that money on something else.

OliviaPalermo.com is your major business commitment right now. What’s a day in the office like there?
Well we just had a soft launch for a whole new look, did you see it?

Check out oliviapalermo.com ‘s new mini-facelift online – i hope you enjoy reading!! #soExcited #soMuchToExplore

A photo posted by Olivia Palermo (@oliviapalermo) on

Yes! It’s gorgeous.

Oh thank you so much! Yes we worked on that, we’re a very small team. When I started this industry it was on the cusp of online and magazines and I worked for magazines so there’s an old school magazine value in how we conduct ourselves. But we are also modern and able to adapt.

What sets you apart from other e-commerce sites?

We are a fashion website with editorial on the side, we’re international, we try to profile emerging designers around the world and it’s all about finding that mix between highs and lows. Everybody that comes to the site wants a little bit of everything; they want a mix of luxury and high street and for me that’s how I dress myself so to incorporate that editorial mix in is important. Today with everything being online and super quick and accessible, we try to do as best a curation as possible to make it easier for girls.

You’re all about authenticity when it comes to endorsing brands, right?

Right. We don’t advertise for that reason. At some point we might do a little but only for brands that we like. They’d have to be handpicked. Don’t sell out! We’re not sell-outs, no no no!

What’s the best career advice you have for someone young wanting to make a career for themselves in the fashion industry?
I’ll give you my best advice that I gave to a girlfriend when I worked at Elle; she’s gone on to work in many different roles within the fashion industry. You have to mix it up in the beginning. Try working in magazines for a bit and then try working online. Interning is a great way to start. Make sure not to jump around too quickly though as that won’t reflect well on you as an employee. Also try working in a PR company that represents many different fashion brands to see how it all works. Not only do they handle productions but also the marketing and so much that goes on behind the scenes. You need to get the 360 experience and then you figure out where you’re best placed and what you’re most passionate. For example being an online editor might be too demanding for the quick turnover so maybe going into a magazine is a better idea for one person. Or ask a start-up if you can help them out as an intern just to get as much experience as possible.

You’re also big into philanthropy.

Yes, so much. It’s extremely important. It’s something I’ve always done since I was a kid. I’d get made fun of in school for being the class philanthropist, always at some charity event at 8am in the morning! I work now with an NGO called #ADCAM. We support the women and children at the Massai Mara. I have this friend, William, well he’s my friend but also the youngest head Massai of his tribe so I’m very proud of him. I met him many years ago with a Spanish company. He’s amazing. His story really touched me. He was inspired by his mother to set up this NGO. Every day he wound run four hours into Nairobi into the embassy and say ‘I really want to start an NGO, how can I get help, who’s going to help me’ and then one day someone came to his rescue and he started ADCAM. Now he has two schools which are number one in their region so it’s major. Almost everything I do there’s a component where we give back to ADCAM, to the women and the children.

Do you ever get any time off?

[Laughs] Christmas maybe. I can relax then. Actually I’ve notice the fashion industry starts to quiet down a lot during the summer before the fashion weeks, so it’s less demanding.

Now that you’re back in Ireland will you have any spare time to check out local designers?

I’m going to go have a look downstairs (in Brown Thomas) but that’s it. I haven’t even seen outside yet.

Tomorrow, Olivia will be at Brown Thomas for a fan meet and greet.

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