With 1.9 million Instagram followers,327,212,000 Facebook friends and a website that garners over a million hits a day, Olivia Palermo is proving that flawless genes, an immaculate sense of style, stellar business sense, plus a whole lot of good old-fashioned manners are a killer combination.
“Hello, I’m Olivia,” a sanguine voice greets me as a bewitching beauty glides out of the desert with all the poise and grace of a gazelle, her long dainty arm outstretched for a firm handshake. Seeming to also posses a gazelle’s exceptional alertness to sound and movement, she has immediately clocked that the larger than normal posse on set – which includes three burly bodyguards to stand guard over the US$3.5 million worth of Cartier jewels she is draped in – has grown by one.
I’ve managed to dodge the fashion’s team 3am start and have turned up for our interview at Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa halfway through the shoot. Yet despite Olivia’s 4am call and the fact that a vicious shamal sandstorm is tearing through the set, playing havoc with the expensive equipment and practically blowing the fragile model over, she remains a consummate professional, never once complaining and stoically smiling through stinging eyes and mouthfuls of gritty sand.
On the contrary, she is resolutely blithe, insisting she’d much rather be here than in her bitterly cold native New York and preferring to chat in a secluded outdoor courtyard as opposed to in the air-conditioned boardroom. With a jam-packed upcoming schedule that will see the in-demand society swan touching down for bookings in Seattle, London, Paris and Tokyo, it’s bordering on miraculous that today’s shoot, followed by her appearance at the Cartier International Dubai Polo Challenge at Dubai’s Desert Palm, has come together at all. But, just like she manages her very modern, multi-faceted career, the poster girl for style is taking it all in her stride.
Maintaining that “there is nothing out there that I cannot handle, I love a challenge”, Olivia tells me that she loves the fact that her career is all-encompassing, but, when pushed to pinpoint her favourite aspect of it, says, “Consulting with new and emerging talent in the fashion industry.”
It’s this willingness to jet off to other countries and open her eyes to more cultures that helps her to shape her classic, yet edgy look. “I am inspired by street style around the world, from Tokyo, to NYC and London – the women that I see in passing, throughout my travels, really keep me on my toes when it comes to new trends and dressing.”
Epitomising glossy, New York polish, her quick fixes to looking pulled together include “a great pair of heels, a classic watch, and a perfectly tailored blazer”. But it’s her beady eye and her observation of trends across the world that helps to keep her perspective of fashion so fresh and formative. “When I see a woman hailing a cab in NY wearing a dress from Zara and then see that same dress on a woman in Tokyo but styled so differently – and their individual personalities are on full display with how they choose to style it – that’s exciting. One may be more bold with statement jewellery and the other may have some colour blocking elements going on with a blazer.”
It is these very women – legions and legions of young girls across the universe – who have backed Olivia on her path of fashion domination, revering her as a career hero. She smiles politely at this label, replying simply and graciously, “I am truly touched that anyone thinks of me that way.”
Having launched her website oliviapalermo.com to give readers a glimpse of her world, the style icon is all too aware of the importance of both the web and social media, with her agent, Oliver Seeden, executive director at Promod Model Agency, telling us, “Social media is the heartbeat and the new currency of modern advertising.”
A fact that can’t have eluded the likes of Mango, Hogan, Roberta Freymann for whom she launched a jewellery line, Spanish jewellers Carrera y Carrera, or Stuart Weitzman, who invited her to design a shoe for charity. Olivia also became the brand ambassador of the 2013 Maasai Project for Pikolinos, appeared as a guest judge on Project Runway as well as for Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model, and was named as the best dressed New Yorker of Page Six in 2012 as well as Chadstone’s first Spring Summer 2013 Icon of Style. Most recently she was appointed the creative director for Ciaté London, and shot a short film for La Mer’s Spring Illuminating Moments Campaign, showing her and her model/photographer husband, Johannes Huebl, getting ready in the morning. “It’s always great to work with Johannes,” she grins. “We feed off of each other’s energy and we had fun with that shoot. It’s a shame he couldn’t join me now as he’s never been to Dubai,” she adds, “but he’s working in Berlin.”
When it comes to her own beauty routine, the 29-year-old cites “youth” as being the secret to always looking fresh-faced and natural, but does admit to regular appointments with dermatologist Dennis Gross and La Mer products for keeping her skin hydrated.
For the big day – the Cartier Polo – Olivia, as is to be expected, looks effortless, a vision in loosely draped monochrome polka dots and slicked back hair, all the better to accentuate her delicate, doe-like features. And, for the tuned-in, brand savvy virtuoso, it’s always a chance to show off her wealth of industry knowledge. “I love the handbag,” she gushes, pointing at my flamboyant Paula Cademartori bag, but is less enthusiastic about my spiky Louboutins, good-naturedly enquiring if I need a plaster for my unmistakably battered ankles.
With regards to Cartier itself, it’s safe to say that it’s a match made in heaven with the always ladylike – and yet distinctly modern – mogul summing up the luxury brand, and, indeed, its devotees in two words: “Pure class.” It’s a jewellery house which clearly goes hand in hand with her distinguished Connecticut upbringing, as she recalls, “My aunt once told me, ‘It doesn’t matter how much something costs, if it’s good then it’s good!’”
With her love of expressive jewellery, most notably chunky necklaces and rings, the style maven holds the sentimental pieces her mum has passed on to her closest to her heart, but is also quick to hone in on the next big thing and is a huge fan of local designer Nathalie Trad’s shapely, structured accessories. She can’t tell us, just yet, about the other up and coming designers she has eyes on because, she promises, there are big things about to be announced on her website. Her own fashion line is a dead cert to be one of these. “I definitely would want to do this, but I want to make sure the timing is right,” she admits, concluding that with so much interest expressed in an OP label, it would be witless not to make it happen.
Without further ado, here’s the behind the scenes action for this gorgeous shoot:
Stylist: Sophia Serin | Photographers: A N D O N I + A R A N T X A | Make-Up Artist: Victor Alvarez | Fashion Assistants: Alexandra Venison & Carmel Gill | Photography Assistants: Farooq Salik & Kristina Nabieba
Olivia Palermo flew first class to Dubai on Emirates Airlines.