Iman's Best Style Advice Involves Heels & God

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When accepting her CFDA Fashion Icon Award in 2010, supermodel Iman ended her speech on a cheeky note, saying to her late husband, David Bowie, "Move over, now you're not the only icon in the house!" Of course, she has been a fashion icon for most of her life. Plucked from college in Nairobi by fashion photographer Peter Beard, she went on to grace Harper's Bazaar, Vogue, and countless runways for decades thereafter. Yves Saint Laurent dedicated his 1986 African Queen collection to her. She also launched Iman Cosmetics in 1994, pioneering makeup for women of color.

When it comes to her personal style, she strives for timeless elegance, opting to eschew trends in favor of classic pieces tailored to perfection. That's not to say she is understated — she considers a 3-inch heel a flat. Rather, she's just found the ageless formula that works for her.

What piece instantly makes you feel more confident and why?

A perfectly bespoke, tailored pantsuit! A few of the ones I love include a vintage YSL and styles from Rachel Zoe, Brandon Maxwell, and Ralph Lauren. My new find is RichFresh, the namesake brand of Fresh, a Los Angeles-based celebrity tailor and designer. It's a lifestyle and luxury brand that specializes in made-to-order custom garments and bags using expert tailoring, unique designs, and the finest fabrics and leathers. All of the pieces are designed by Fresh and hand-made in his production facility in Los Angeles. I can't get enough.

Fresh with Iman, in a RichFresh suit. Courtesy of Iman

How do you define your personal style?

In a world full of trends, I want to remain an ageless classic.

How has your style played a role in your career?

Beyond just my career, it has played a huge role in how I present myself to the world everyday, throughout my life. I call my style "ageless chic." To me, that means simply that true style has a focus, even if that focus is borrowed and remixed from a lot of different aesthetics. It's about how you make it effortlessly your own.

Overall, I think the best investment for looking agelessly chic is having the perfect tailor on speed dial!

What fashion category do you feel is lacking? What would you like to see more of?

Evening wear that is not dresses! You know when they say “cocktail wear,” really, what is that? For that matter, what the hell is “festive wear”? What I would like to see more of would be along the lines of velvet tuxedos.

Iman in a Rachel Zoe Collection velvet tuxedo. Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

What is your daily uniform? How has it changed or stayed the same? Why is it your uniform?

Pants are my uniform, and they have to be perfectly tailored — even jeans! Obviously, I’m not the same size [as] when I was in my 20s or 30s, so it has shifted and become more refined. Overall I think the best investment for looking agelessly chic is having the perfect tailor on speed dial!

Fashion heaven for me would be if all designers made comfortable 4.5-inch heels.

What style item do you covet the most? A category, a designer, a specific item?

I have worked for years with Mr. Valentino, but I have to say — and Mr. Valentino will agree with me — that Pierpaolo Piccioli [the current creative director at Valentino] has uniquely advanced the brand through his personal vision. It’s classic, but at the same time modern. I think he is a complete genius! If I can only get one of those floral headpieces for my archives, I would be forever elated.

Valentino Fall 2018 Couture Headpieces. Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

What item do you own multiple versions of? Why?

Perfectly tailored jackets! They can elevate anything from jeans to a long maxi skirt and even denim shorts.

I never ever thought I would miss high heels the way I miss them now, but darling, the higher the heels, the closer to God.

If money were no object, what is one outrageous luxury item you would invest in and why?

For me, accessories are the stars in my closet and everything else is a supporting act. Bags and shoes are always at the top of my wish list. When I get dressed, I start first with my bag and shoes, and then work my way up to my clothes. Four years ago, I had surgery on one of my feet and have been unable to wear heels higher than 3 inches since. Can you seriously call a 3-inch heel high? Let’s be honest, I think not! I know to the average person 3 inches is high, but you can't have high fashion without high heels. To me, a heel is 5 inches or more. I have found myself walking down the street in Soho, where I live, and just looking down at women’s feet in the highest of heels and feeling so jealous. I come home to my apartment and just look at all the shoes that I can’t wear anymore.

I don’t know if money can buy me this but I would pay a lot, and I mean a lot, if a shoe designer could create a very comfortable, 4.5-inch high heel. I don't need to be able to walk in it comfortably all day, just for 30 minutes, but it has to be stylish, edgy, and cool. Fashion heaven for me would be if all designers made comfortable 4.5-inch heels.

I never ever thought I would miss high heels the way I miss them now, but darling, the higher the heels, the closer to God.

Can you recall an outfit you have worn that was iconic for you — either you wore it for a momentous occasion or it signified a turning point in your life or style? What inspired it/how did it happen?

The Giambattista Valli custom couture gown I wore to accept my CFDA Fashion Icon Award 2010. I definitely wanted a couture gown, but I wanted a design that transcended time and would remain a classic 50 years from now. That is exactly what Giambattista gave me. The hair, makeup, and jewelry followed suit, and it was a truly classic and timeless fashion moment.

Iman in Giambattista Valli Couture at the 2010 CFDA Awards. Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Which item in your closet is your most beloved/have you owned for the longest and why?

My Azzedine Alaïa python coat! It is beautifully tailored and such a statement-making piece.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.