Making it in the fashion elite and being accepted by high society is no easy feat, yet Olivia Palermo has conquered both, wowing the world in the process
For some 15 minutes of fame is just that a snap opportunity that sees them rapidly thrust into the spotlight only to be to left in the dark just as quickly, becoming a mere distant memory. However, there are a rare few whose profile remains prominent after their 15 minutes, these are the genuine stars whose lustre continues.
Olivia Palermo definitely falls into the latter category. Brought to our attention through reality TV show The City she has since transformed herself into one of the biggest names in the fashion industry. When it comes to catwalk prominence every designer wants Anna Wintour, and now Olivia, gracing their front row. Style icon, muse and savvy businesswoman, Olivia is a celebrity in her own right.
An international style icon every fashion website worth its salt will have at least one image of Olivia in its archives. She is literally snapped at every show and every event thanks to her sartorial prowess, stunning Audrey Hepburn-esque beauty and graceful elegance – she doesn’t fit the stereotype of reality TV stars.
It’s no surprise then that big-name brands from high street to high-end choose Olivia as their brand ambassador – from Mango to more recently Carrera y Carerra, fashion powerhouses are queuing up to be associated her. And with Olivia’s penchant for mixing designer and high street brands, she is also a realistic fashion idol with many magazines consequently telling you how to get her look.
Of course, there’s more to Olivia than smiling for the cameras she also has a day job as the Executive Editor/Creative Director of oliviapalermo.com, a style website and blog documenting the latest trends in fashion, travel and lifestyle.
“I have my dream job,” she says. “Since I was little I have always wanted to do this. I always dressed up. It’s who I am.”
Born in 1986 to real estate developer Douglas Palermo and interior designer Lynn Hutchings, Olivia grew up between the wealthy Upper East Side of New York and Greenwich Connecticut. In 2008 she took part in The City, a spin off to MTV’s The Hills.
As part of the show, Olivia worked as a PR officerfor Diane Von Fursenberg and later moved to Elle magazine working in the accessories department. The show became Olivia’s big break.
It proved Olivia to be an ardent hard worker. She is so much more than a pretty face, she lives and breathes fashion.
“I’m at the office to do my work” she said of her work ethic. “I’m not at the office for personal reasons and I’m not going to have my personal life interfere with my work environment. It’s completely inappropriate.”
After leaving the show Olivia remained resolute in her quest to be successful. She signed up to Wilhelmina Models in 2009 and soon graced the covers and pages of many glossy titles including Vogue Spain.
Though she may live for fashion – even her boyfriend, the gorgeous Johannes Huebl, is a model – Olivia is not all consumed by it, instead she uses her profile to raise awareness for other causes. Olivia is a spokeswoman for Operation Smile a children’s medical charity for children with cleft lips and palates.
She is also ambassador of the Maasai project for conscious fashion brand Pikolinos, which has been working with community activist William Kikanae, a leader of the Maasai tribe from Kenya, to create a footwear line that earns profits intended to further women’s development and additional projects in the Maasai Mara National Reserve.
The collection is not only inspired by the rich beading and ornamentation of the Maasai tribe, but Pikolinos hired more than 1,600 Maasai women to embroider their leather goods with traditional patterns, colours and designs.
“When I heard about the project I thought it was amazing,” says Olivia who flew to Africa as part of the project. “I came to Kenya to see the project in person to see the faces of the woman and to see their pride after receiving their first paycheque of their lives, their first job and their chance to contribute and preserve their own tribe, their own culture.”
Would Olivia like one day to launch her own fashion collection? “Designing will come in time,” she says. “I’m focusing on the site now but it’s something I’m looking into so hopefully it will be sooner rather than later.”
On discussing her potential line, which is highly anticipated, she adds: “[My collection] would probably be soft and elegant – a really feminine collection. But I do love menswear, so I would probably throw in a few blazers and pant suits into the mix as well. It would have to be consistent though, that’s something you have to keep in mind when you’re designing.”
She credits her influences to Coco Chanel and street photographer Scott Schulman of thesartorialist.com – “Scott Schuman captures off-the-cuff street style. It’s raw and natural and fits my aesthetic. Menswear always has an influence on me and I think that’s down to Coco Chanel. I think many women are influenced by her imprint on fashion.”
While her rise up the style ladder has been a gradual process over the past four years, her proclivity for fashion began at a young age “It started when I would see my mother and aunt get dressed up and go out at night in the city.”
IMAGES NACHO ALEGRE/MOTIF MANAGEMENT