Go Behind The Scenes Of Karl Lagerfeld x Olivia Palermo

"The most important thing to remember is to dress appropriately for your environment. Don’t be too overdressed or under-dressed."

When the Karl Lagerfeld team and Olivia Palermo came together to design their capsule collection, it was more than just a pinch-me moment. It was the result of two fashion figures joining forces to do what they do best — to design clothes women actually want to wear and to style them for real life. For most collaborations, it’s a process that usually remains under wraps, raising questions like But how involved were they? and the idea that neither party actually designed any of it. But for Palermo, someone who is heavily involved in all of her projects, it was important to pull back the curtains on what it really means to collaborate with one of the best in the business and shed light on the creative process.

“I am very hands-on — I try to manage every detail of every element! My attention to detail in all that I do is extremely high. I do make sure to ask for the input of those around me who are experts in their fields but always stick to my instinct,” Palermo recounts of her time working on the collection. “It was a true honor to work with the KARL LAGERFELD brand and his incredible team. We have very similar brand values, which made it easy to work together.”

So, to get to know the mind of Palermo even better — and why the significance of painting on a leather perfecto jacket is quintessential Palermo — we’ve got a Q&A with the co-creator of Karl Lagerfeld’s latest collaboration. Below, fashion entrepreneur gets candid on everything from styling tips, jet-setting between New York and Paris, and her life in the industry.

What was your inspiration when creating your edit of the collection?
I wanted to play with Karl’s Parisian classics, and add my own touch with a tailored yet eclectic feel. It was also important for me to keep a black and white palette. That’s a very clear message for KARL LAGERFELD, and that’s something that really resonates with me and my own brand colors.

Do you remember your immediate reaction?
I was absolutely thrilled. Karl’s team has been incredible to work with — like Karl, they set the bar very high. It’s been a wonderful creative partnership.

How does your edit embody the “Paris to New York” theme?
The collection embodies the international woman and includes a range of looks that could easily apply to a variety of situations the international woman may find herself needing to dress for. I used my travels and experiences in different cultures to inform my edit to ensure its wearability from Paris to New York and beyond.

What is your top styling tip for your edit?
It’s important to me to keep athleisure elevated. One way I like to do so is to play with different textures and fabrics. Take, for example, the chiffon pleated dress-jacket. Chiffon is always a great texture to play with given its movement, and we combined it with spandex and some transparency for a really chic yet functional feel. For anyone, black and white is also a great place to start in your wardrobe.

What has been the highlight of this experience?
Working with such an incredible team, from marketing to design to production and creative. It makes the experience very well-rounded. I’ve admired Chris Colls’ work for many years, and now I’ve had the great fortune to work with him alongside Karl’s team. It’s been fabulous.

What is your favorite piece from the collection?
I’m a big fan of mixing leather pants and white button-down shirts; in my own everyday wear, those are pieces that I always look to. I really love the shirts in the collection, and the tuxedo suit.

How do you describe your style in three words?
Eclectic, tailored and polished.

How do you continue to stay inspired, and what are your favorite sources of inspiration?
Commercially speaking, there’s a lot out there that looks the same. I look to editorials in magazines worldwide; I look at what’s in the market and what’s not in the market. That gives me a better direction for my own brand and what I want to do.

What’s your best style advice you’d tell your friends?
They probably don’t want to hear my styling advice! But I give them the honest opinion: if something doesn’t look great, it doesn’t look great. You have to find a way to make it work, or maybe revisit it altogether.

Do you prefer getting dressed up or keeping it casual?
I love both — and I think there’s a place for both — but the most important thing to remember is to dress appropriately for your environment. Don’t be too overdressed or under-dressed.

What’s your favorite accessory?
My all-time favorite accessory is my cell phone, because that’s most-used thing I own!

Who are your ultimate fashion icons?
There are people who inspire me with their work or aesthetic, in photography or design for example, and that makes those people icons to me. I’m more inspired by my friends and the people around me, instead of just one person, really.

Throughout your fashion career, what has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned?
The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is a life lesson that was instilled in me from a very young age: you shouldn’t take anything for granted; appreciate everything you have, and share that same feeling with the people around you. You’ll be able to inspire one another and lift each other up. 

Do you ever have pinch-me moments?
This collaboration with KARL LAGERFELD is certainly one! It’s important that you get excited about projects, or else what’s the point? I want to be passionate about everything that I do. I’m the type of person who wakes up every day and is like, “Yes! Let’s go!”

Looking back at the amazing accomplishments you’ve had, would you change anything?
It’s all an experience and learning process. You can see what worked or didn't work, and going further down the road in life, you can reflect back and see why you went through what you did. If you don’t go through mistakes, you don’t grow.

Top sightseeing spot? 
I like the Tuileries gardens in the summer, when everything is blooming. It’s pretty during the early morning when there are no people around. 

What do you love about Parisian style?
I love that the women have an effortless flair — it’s not overdone, it’s not under done. There’s just something sexy about it.

What’s the best thing about living in New York?
Almost everything is open and at your disposal.

Favorite NYC neighborhood?
TriBeCa.

Best place to enjoy a glass of wine?
Tutto Il Giorno on Franklin Street.

Best spot to meet girlfriends for brunch?
I don’t like brunch — I am either a breakfast or a lunch person, but not in between! 

Favorite spot for a dinner date with your husband?
Sushi Nakazawa, Loring Place, Indochine. We love Italian and sushi.

Best way to spend a Saturday in New York?
Playing Mario Kart at home with my friends! Everyone else goes out on weekends, so it’s nice to unwind at home. If I’m in London, I’ll go out with friends for drinks in Notting Hill.

The NYC spot that always inspires you?
My nail salon in TriBeCa. There are so many fabulous women that walk in and out of that door — it’s the perfect spot for people watching!

What essential pieces do you always pack in your suitcase?
I have a uniform: leather pants, cashmere sweater, white button-down shirt, motorcycle boots. Those are my essentials.

How do you juggle your job, travel and personal life?
I have a very supportive husband who lets me be me, and helps as much as he can. When it comes to my travel schedule, we aren’t ever separated for more than seven days.

What’s your top tip for long flights and jetlag?
My routine is military: I have times when I fly and locations where I fly, so there’s no room for surprises. It’s important to leave a day early and get situated. If I leave New York in the evening, I arrive at the destination in the morning; I can then get settled, get to bed early and prepare for a full day of work the next day. Adding in a workout is also important.

Who would be your dream person to sit next to on an airplane?
My husband.

What’s your favorite city and why?
Milan or London. I have lots of friends in both places.

Credits Photographed by Chris Colls; Creative Directed by Jristian Limsico; Makeup by Nelson Catarino; Hair by Ben Pinon; Nails by Yana Marquise; Production by Celine Daviou.
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