This is what it's like to interview Olivia Palermo during her busiest time of year: The style star and designer—whom we caught up with at Nordstrom Michigan Avenue during New York Fashion Week—will greet you with a huge, dimpled smile. She'll ask you where you'd like to sit, offer you a drink, and make you feel so at home you're almost able to forget about her preternatural grace under pressure. Still, one needs the lowdown. "I've been practicing Bikram yoga since I was 18, but I haven't been doing it recently," Olivia told The Lookbook. "I started a few months ago—and I will continue for the rest of my life— training with Tracy Anderson. It's incredible. Even if it's not with Tracy, though, any sort of workout clears the head. You can always build in the time. It keeps you happy and healthy, and keeps you feeling good."
The New Yorker was in Chicago to promote the new Olivia Palermo x Chelsea 28 line. At a preview of the capsule collection—which features everything from a ribbed, cold-shoulder sweater to a suede trench vest with a removable cape—a Nordstrom rep noted that textures are incredibly important to Olivia. (Truth: a touch test revealed beautifully soft fabrics.) And as the designer greeted fans in her own peplum silk top and cropped trousers, the pieces' sharp tailoring was clear. "I've always had a tomboy in me," Olivia confided. "In any dressing, I like a tailored element, and I always do take inspiration from menswear."
Her mother Lynn Hutchings was also an early style inspiration, especially when it comes to Olivia's dazzling collection of cold-weather gear. (Just peep her Instagram. You'll see.) "My mother has an incredible jacket collection," Olivia said. And without realizing it—I am her daughter—I think I inherited that. I have a few jackets she's given me, but I love, love, love a great statement coat. It can really carry you through the whole season."
Nevertheless, she loves dressing for warm weather even more. "I love fall layering; it's one of my favorites, but I do love spring," she said. "I think that the color palettes for spring are really nice. I love pastels, and sea-foam green, light pinks, and blushes—I love all those colors. And we do have longer winters now, so I'm starting to lean more towards spring as I try to hold on[to it]."
Anyone who knew Olivia as a young girl might have recognized a budding style savant. "I think I was one of the very few students that really loved a uniform," recalled the Nightingale-Bamford alum. "But, I loved to put my own twist on that uniform. I added scarves, belts, and played with the shoes and the accessories for a bag. I didn't have a backpack; I had a a very structured bag. I think I probably still have it somewhere in storage."
These days, Olivia's work has her jet-setting all over the globe. And though there's no uniform for an international style icon, she has packing down a T. She won't leave home without her travel candles, makeup kit, and a Mophie pack stashed in her Rimowa suitcase. And, she knows just who to call to get the best beauty services wherever she lands.
In New York, Olivia's been faithful to doctor Dennis Gross since she was a teenager, and still uses his specially formulated products. Her New York facialist is Joanna Vargas—"she really focuses on the muscle of your face," Olivia said—and she's also tight with London-based makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury. In Paris, she's in equal awe of the "incredible architecture and fashion." But in Japan, it's all about the lashes: "In Tokyo especially, I find the most amazing eyelashes," she said. "I also find great eyelash curlers there."
As the guest creative director for Ciaté London, Olivia also experiments constantly with different nail colors. This fall, she's painting on the wine-red Napa Valley. Her go-to red is named Hutch, after her mother, and a pinky-nude polish called Sundays channels the style star's relaxed, weekend vibe.
Speaking of relaxation, it's tough to imagine Olivia vegging out in a pair of yoga pants—even on a Sunday. "I think there's a time and a place for athleisure," she said. "There's a way to elevate it so it doesn't look sloppy, and you can leave the house in it and it's totally acceptable. But, it has to be a polished, clean, pulled-together aesthetic. If not, it looks like you're going to the gym." As for the choker trend that just won't quit, Olivia was perfectly diplomatic: "Everything in moderation," she said.
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