What is it like inside Olivia Palermo’s impossibly glamorous life?
Emma Chong Johnston finds out. Styling by Jennifer Michalski-Bray.
Photography by Carla Guler
Top, Milly. Skirt, David Koma.
Skirt (worn underneath), DKNY.
Top, Dior. Skirt, Max Mara.
Clutch, Kate Spade. Earrings
and bracelet, Jennifer Fisher.
ELLE. MY 35
livia Palermo is a consummate 21st-century celebrity. She
first entered our lives in 2008 via MTV’s scripted reality
television series, The City. Cast as the cold brunette foil to
Whitney Port’s naive blonde heroine, Olivia’s patrician
poise and affection for eye-rolls and scathing remarks
made her sensational TV bait. She quickly eclipsed
the faltering Whitney, and through the power of her razor-sharp
style and some inspired editing, became the show’s standout star,
entrancing and alienating viewers at every turn.
But 2008 was virtually a lifetime ago in television years, and
in the time since then the world has gotten to know the woman
behind the character. And we like her. Sure, she is opinionated and
likes things done a certain way, but she’s also warm, whipsmart
and most definitely in possession of a sense of humour.
And now Olivia is no longer interested in courting television
cameras. These days she rules the street style pages, frequently
tops best-dressed lists and has made her personal brand a tightly
edited, formidably stylish one. The cameras love her and so do we,
and yet she always manages to feel just a little beyond our reach –
which only makes us clamour more.
The result? Olivia Palermo is now a very, very busy woman,
bouncing between New York and Europe and the USA’s East
and West coasts as frequently as the rest of us might pop out to
the shops. When we finally catch up with her for a Transatlantic
chat just before the Christmas rush, she sounds ever so slightly
frazzled. “Every day is a busy day!” she says breathlessly. “But
everything is very structured. New York is home, but I’m really
only there 150, 160 days a year – the rest of the time I’m on the
road. If I’m in New York, my day starts on the phone with Europe,
and then I spend the day focusing on OliviaPalermo.com, and I have
photo shoots, meetings, I’m on the phone with my team – I’m on
the phone all the time!”
Why so many meetings, you may ask? If you know her, as 2.9
million people do, through the glossy photos on her Instagram
feed, you may think that all Olivia does is take absurdly beautiful
couple photos with her model husband, Johannes Huebl and
holiday with Valentino duo Giancarlo Giammetti and Valentino
Garavani. But you’d be mistaken. “We’re launching a collection
with Nordstrom, I’ll be designing a collection for Chelsea28
“These days, Olivia rules the street style pages, tops the best-dressed lists
and has made her personal brand a formidably stylish one.”
[Nordstrom’s house brand],” Olivia starts, taking a breath. “Then
there’s the new collection with Westward Leaning, in rose gold,
one of my favourite colours. We just shot Max and Co’s new
campaign for spring – I work with them as a brand ambassador
and I love them dearly – and we’re also coming up with a new
collection for Bauble Bar. And working with Ciaté.”
That’s five brands who’ve made it to the top of the pile for
a chance to work with Olivia – no mean feat, as she is constantly
in demand for collaborations and projects. Clever marketers know
that her name carries one of the highest sales conversion rates
possible for a celebrity. In 2014 she designed a shoe collection with
Aquazzura which sold out in a snap; her sunglasses for Westward
Leaning are some of the most popular on the site. She’s been a
creative director at Ciaté since 2015, starting out by adding her
stamp on the brand’s signature nail polishes and then extending
her reach into colour cosmetics.
“The beauty industry was definitely something a little different
for me,” Olivia admits. coming from her fashion-saturated world.
“But at the same time, accessories are my go-to for creating a look
and makeup is very similar. You can really tell a story through
the makeup.” And tell a story she did, with custom shades and
beautiful, luxe packaging. “It’s been fantastic working with Ciaté.
I like combining different eye shadows, different blushes to find
our favourite formula. And you know, I’m so proud of the product;
every time I see girls wearing it, it makes me smile.”
Need tips on how to wear the Ciaté collections? They’re all
on OliviaPalermo.com – as well as runway reviews, shopping
and fitness recommendations and all the details on all her brand
collaborations. What started as a catalogue of outfits is now a
full-blown lifestyle website complete with editorial team. But
the core is still indisputably Olivia – Olivia’s style, Olivia’s taste.
Dress, Jenny Packham.
Earrings, Lauren Chisholm.
Ring, Shahla Karimi.
Top, DKNY. Ear cuff,
“I think it’s really important to play off different patterns,
fabrics and textures.”
Dress, Patbo. Shirt (worn underneath),
3.1 Phillip Lim at intermixonline.com.
Earrings, Jennifer Fisher. Ring,
HAIR Lacy Redway using Bumble
and Bumble at The Wall Group
MAKEUP Daniel Martin for Dior Beauty
MANICURE M Plaza Tribeca STYLING
ASSISTANT Theodora Chytoudi
PHOTOGRAPHY ASSISTANT Matt
Richards RETOUCHING Ashlee Gray
LOCATION Gansevoort Meatpacking NYC
ELLE. MY 39
Because that’s the real reason we’re all here – the woman is a genius
with style. Have you seen her wearing double denim? Or mustard
yellow, forest green and navy in one shot? Or floor-length sequins
paired with a centre parting and an Alice band (who even wears
Alice bands any more? Olivia Palermo, and she’ll make you want
to wear them too). Olivia’s every look, whether red carpet or
off-duty (although it’s hard to imagine she’s ever off-duty) is an
artfully composed masterpiece. Remember, she wore a sweater
for her wedding, albeit a cashmere Carolina Herrera one. And no,
there is no stylist involved.
“I think for myself it’s really important to play off different
patterns and fabrics and textures,” Olivia tells us, struggling to put
the alchemy of her fashion into words. “I think that it’s classic, it’s
colourful, there’s always a bit of a tailored element. You can have a
Zara dress and pair it with a Dior piece. And as you get older, you
learn what works best for your body type.” What works best for
Olivia is colour, and lots of it. She’s forever disproving the theory
that New Yorkers only wear black; Olivia needs colour every day.
When it comes to work, it’s really important to
love what you do. If you don’t, try new things until
you find what you love.
When you get dressed, incorporate a little pop
of colour, because it makes you happy and
changes your mood.
When travelling, use Ziploc bags for everything:
toiletries, even jewellery, so you can see
OLIVIA’S TOP TIPS
ADVICE FOR BUSY WOMEN ON THE GO
“I always celebrate Valentine’s Day on an airplane, flying to London
for the fashion week. But for Johannes and I, every day is Valentine’s
Day. A perfect date doesn’t necessarily have to be going out to dinner;
it can really just be being at home and enjoying each other’s company.
Sometimes we get so busy with work and it’s nice to just be able to
unwind at home and watch movies and hang out. Sorry, I know you
were hoping for something more exciting!”
Olivia’s perfect Valentine’s Day
And a lot of it is supplied through runway and archival Valentino
pieces. On set she gravitated towards the Valentino pieces, and
it’s easy to see why: with their rich depth of colour, detail and
complexity, they mirror Olivia’s sartorial thinking.
“My favourite fashion moments have been… probably a lot
of Valentino dresses! I think they are just really beautiful,” Olivia
says. Her friendship with founder of the house Valentino Garavani
is well-documented, through envy-inducing holiday selfies and
many a red carpet photo, though she shies away from speaking
about him, with only a giggling, “He’s wonderful!” in reply to
questions about their friendship. “I always say this, but I think
it’s true. A great moment was Valentino’s 45th anniversary, which
was an incredible event. The clothes were incredible.” Olivia
wore a floor-length ivory tulle gown, cinched at the waist with
a bejewelled black ribbon, and is beaming in every photo.
A jetsetting lifestyle, a handsome husband who shoots her
#ootds, a wardrobe full of Valentino and top brands clamouring
to work with her. What more could Olivia Palermo possibly need?
“Honestly? I miss my dog. And my weekly manicure!”