Iman: ‘I’m not going to buy a bag from someone who doesn’t use black models’

Harper's BAZAAR April 18 - Iman 2

Iman is being honored at this year’s CFDAs (in June). She receiving the Fashion Icon Award, which is well-deserved and also… like, why has she never received the award before? Iman has been a fashion icon this whole time! Anyway, I think that’s why she was given this wonderful feature in Harper’s Bazaar. Taraji P. Henson conducted the interview, and it’s just a joy to read. Some highlights:

The best advice: “My mom always said, “Learn to say no and to walk away from things that don’t serve you.” “No” is a complete sentence. You don’t have to explain yourself.

On making an effort to ensure diversity on today’s runways: “There were more black models working back when I started than there have been recently. So Bethann Hardison, Naomi Campbell, and I got together a couple of years ago to raise awareness about the need for diversity in fashion. We talked about it in the press and to the CFDA, and I think we’re seeing the change on the runways and in campaigns…People used to say to me, “You just want to be invited to the table.” And I’m like, “F**k the table—I can buy my own table.” But the young girls who are coming up? They need to see themselves portrayed.”

How to help promote diversity in the industry: “If a designer boycotts me, I should boycott him. I’m not going to buy a bag from someone who doesn’t use black models. We should celebrate and highlight the people who actually step it up.”

On how her style has changed over time: “I’ve always lived by the philosophy that in a world full of trends, I want to remain a classic. True style is like a great black-and-white picture: It never looks dated.”

Investment pieces: “I still pull out one of my Yves Saint Laurent tuxedos from time to time, and everybody thinks it’s something new. Great bags also have longevity. I try to steer clear of trends, although I’ve been known to buy a pink Hermès bag.

Whether every woman should have a Birkin bag: “Yes, I do. But do as I say, not as I do, and go for one in black or dark chocolaty-brown.

Whether she has a lot of black in her closet: “Yes. People say that black is the absence of color, and I’m like, “No, black is a color!”

[From Harper’s Bazaar]

I love “No is a complete sentence.” Word. I wish I knew that when I was younger, but then again, I think it’s good to say “yes” to a lot of things when you’re younger, so you’ll learn from the good experiences as well as the bad. I like what she says about designers “boycotting” black models or models of color, and she says in the interview that she sometimes feel like the modeling industry is going backwards, that there were more black models in her day than there are now. And if you could only get one Birkin bag in one color, what would it be? I think I would probably go with black. Or maybe white? But definitely not brown. I don’t have many brown purses.

Harper's BAZAAR April 18 - Iman 3

Harper's BAZAAR April 18 - Iman 1

Photos courtesy of Dennis Leupold for Harper’s Bazaar, received via email from Hearts publicity.

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37 Responses to “Iman: ‘I’m not going to buy a bag from someone who doesn’t use black models’”

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  1. psl says:

    Good for her.
    I won’t buy any brand that associates with the Kardashians, or any makeup/perfume line done by a celebrity.

    We all have our standards.

  2. tracking says:

    I love her, and she’s right.

    • SK says:

      She is!

      Listen I am a boring white girl and I just don’t get this obsession with boring white models. Many of my favourite models right now are black and good god they are incredible. I just cannot understand it. Give me Ajak Deng, Adut Akech Bior (aussie gal!!), Duckie Thot (another aussie gal!), Jasmine Tookes, Lais Ribeiro, Adwoah Aboah and Slick Woods aaaaaaall day long!

      To me magazines and runways that are all white are washed out and boring. I want to see girls of all colours and backgrounds all the time. It is instantly more vibrant and interesting. Designers who are not diverse need to be constantly and consistently named and shamed and, whilst I can’t afford any of their stuff anyway (well, maybe I could if I didn’t prioritise travel and art above all else), I would never buy from a designer who was clearly racist or pandering to racists.

  3. Rapunzel says:

    Yes every woman should have a Birkin bag. Too bad not every Woman has the money for such expensive luxury. I know I don’t

    • SK says:

      ha ha ha ha ha ha! Indeed! I used to work with guy whose wife loved designer bags and had about 20k+ worth of them already. He worked and stressed out so hard to make commissions but rather than going towards his mortgage, travel or kids’ educations it was going to designer gear (including an LV bucket hat for their baby). I get it’s a bit of a cultural thing in some ways (they are Chinese-Australian) but I just couldn’t comprehend it. She desperately wanted a Birkin and he told me that before you can even get on the list to get one you need to spend 30k at Hermes and he was gradually working away at that. I was flabbergasted. Let’s be clear: his wife was earning money too – more than him in fact ; but I just see it as so wasteful and unnecessary unless you are stonking rich.

  4. BengalCat2000 says:

    Birkin Bags are ugly in any color.
    Iman is Goddess.

    • Rachel in August says:

      I wouldn’t ever patronize a firm for raising crocodiles to be turned into handbags, ever. Horrific cruelty, just horrific. Google it. A Hermes bag is only a status symbol and a pretty shallow one at that, whether or not you can afford one.

  5. KBeth says:

    Good for her.
    She really is just breathtaking.

  6. Reef says:

    Wow we must have the same mom. Because I used to hear “No is the entire story. The book is closed” A LOT.

    Iman’s makeup was one of the first if not the first makeup brands that had diverse shades of brown palettes AND it was affordable. I’ll love her forever for that. I could not afford MAC in high school.

    • sunny says:

      This! The first line I ever used where I didn’t have to blend foundations to get my shade of black. Iman is as stunning as ever. Love her!

    • LAK says:

      Yves Saint Laurent was one of the first big fashion houses to have make up for black people. I know this because my aunt was an in-house model for them in the 70s and Yves preferred to use Black models on his runway. Something about the way they walked -racist / fetish, that was his opinion – and consequently developed a line of make up for them to use.

      You could buy the line in upmarket stores, but it was very expensive. It’s one of the reasons Iman was able to find a decent, niche in the middle ground between super expensive and fashion fair.

      When he sold his company, the line was reduced to colours and shades that cater to white people though they kept the dark colours in their lipsticks and eye make up. They also stopped using black models exclusively. When Tom Ford started designing for them, the white out continued until there were no black models on the runway.

      After MAC proved so successful, all these companies, added the darl colours and shades.

      • Reef says:

        Thank you, LAK. I did not know this about Yves. That’s so interesting because there’s a lot of time between the 70’s and the late 90’s when I started playing with makeup. MAC was everything because of Lil’ Kim (especially when she was *clears throat* darker) but my coins did not add up to my tastes so Iman was a blessing.

      • Abbess Tansy says:

        Hi LAK, thanks for the background info. Had no idea about Saint Laurent. One of the only makeup lines (I’m black american) I’m used to was Fashion Fair and I’m not used to wearing makeup everyday. I love MAC lipsticks.

  7. Lucy says:

    She’s magnificent.

  8. Laura Dawe says:

    Iman is so breath-taking beautiful 😍

  9. Rumi says:

    It took me a long time to get to No and be ok with it. That’s great advice for young girls. As we are raised to be people pleasers.
    Birkins are not attractive to me. Same with LV.
    She is stunning!
    Money talks, supporting people who promote diversity is always a good thing.

    • Janey says:

      Really? Damn, my daughter says No to me all the time. LOL… but joking aside, I think that it’s great advice and in general women, and I’m seeing this more, young women in the work place will take on work and more work while their male counterparts just say they cannot do it. I don’t know if it’s changed with my age but I’m now more firmly in the Nope, can’t do it firm.

      My friend who was evaluated for her work said she was rated great, except she needed to work on her attitude. And that was all because she basically tells them NO. Sometimes, somethings just can’t be done!

      • Saucy says:

        I’m very OK with saying no as I’ve realised the guys say no and are respected. Unfortunately I get the exact same vibe: no matter how amazing the client feedback, if I say no to some politicking project that I deem to be a waste of my time (based on a rational cost/benefit analysis) I’m told I need to work on my attitude…As a consequence I’m very good at not only burning bridges but positively putting dynamite under them before walking away!

  10. Mee says:

    Yep I co-sign. I do not buy makeup that doesn’t use black models. And I won’t buy designers that don’t use black models. Once I can afford them that is.

  11. Shannon says:

    She is so gorgeous and I love this interview!!! Personally I don’t find Birkins all that attractive, which is fortunate since I couldn’t afford one LOL – but I really adore her. “F**k the table, I can buy my own table” omg I love that!

  12. NotSoSocialButterfly says:

    Timeless, ageless classic beauty. She is so gorgeous.

    I just don’t get the big deal with this bag. One bag that is the equivalent of a car to a house. I guess some people have a desire for status symbols.


  13. Moneypenny424 says:

    A strong woman who is beautiful and intelligent. I will absolutely be teaching my daughters that no is a complete sentence. Always an inspiration, Iman!

  14. Snappyfish says:

    She has always been the most beautiful one in any room. Hands down. I know this is not the same but I don’t go to Chik fil a , which I call Hate Chicken due to their stance on LGBT issues. I try to buy from companies that are inclusive of all. I don’t shop at Walmart as they pay their employees (the legs they make their millions from) a non living wage. It probably doesn’t matter but any little bit

    As for her comment about black clothes. I wear them always, always a classic and it matches my mood, my humor, my soul….

    • K-Peace says:

      I don’t shop at Walmart either for that reason as well as many others, and I wish more people would also boycott Walmart. It would make the world a better place. Walmart is an evil entity.

      Iman is so very beautiful. However I don’t agree with her about how every woman should have a Birkin bag. How frivolous! In fact, I’ve never gotten the hype about fancy purses at all. I just need a bag to carry a few items around with me. It doesn’t need to be super-fashionable and it certainly doesn’t need to cost a fortune.

    • jetlagged says:

      I won’t shop at Walmart if I have other choices, but in large (mostly rural) parts of the country it is now the only option. People forget that before Amazon was became the devil for driving brick and mortar retailers out of business, Walmart spent decades doing the same thing to small and medium stores all over the country.

  15. manta says:

    I’m not sure the use of black models is a standard I would use. In fact I’m sure some companies are smart enough to pay good money for black models fronting their campaigns although they have questionable attitudes when it comes to lower employees.
    In France L’Oréal, a few years ago, was condemned for discrimination after some job ads looking for shop assistants with the mention BBR only ( Bleu Blanc Rouge = code for white only).
    I never bought anything from them since and seriously doubt their parading of diverse models means diversity at the bottom.

    • Imara219 says:

      I’ve been boycotting L’oreal company and subsidiaries for 4 yrs for the reasons you stated.

  16. Nev says:


  17. Tan says:

    On one hand she raises important issues regarding diversity, on other hand recommends birkin? Pure Leather? Animal cruelty.

    I know we don’t need perfect role models but I wish there was one.

  18. Abbess Tansy says:

    Iman is just beautiful! And yes, I should think about when I buy my next bag, or even purchase.

  19. Jayna says:

    Iman is 62 years old, and will be 63 in July. She looks ah-mazing. She is a goddess. David Bowie adored her, and she him.

    A photo of them for a walk down memory lane. What a beautiful couple, who met later in life and knew what they had.×584.jpg