As you know, February is Black History Month–but in New York City, it’s also Fashion Week month.¬† God knows we’ve made sufficient noise about the lack of black models on the runway, so instead, I’d like to celebrate Black designers!
Stephen Burrows, Tracy Reese and B. Michael have defined our times and weathered the storm that is the fashion industry (these days, everyone is a critic, aren’t they?) Here, I chatted with all three of these fashion visionaries.
When I arrived in New York in 1975, there were few African American designers and certainly none who had achieved any kind of stature–with, of course, the exception being Stephen Burrows!
Tracy Reese ranks as one of the fashion industry’s most successful African-American women whose realm is not only relegated to the runway.¬† In a business where few designer labels seem to make it past their fifth anniversary, Reese has two clothing lines, Tracy Reese and Plenty.
This fantastic designer launched his first couture collection in 1999 and, similar to his approach to millinery, his design exudes a glamourous, clean aesthetic.¬† He heightens his couture vision by infusing emotions such as joy, adding a discern-able feeling and festive mood to his creations.
CONTINUED AT ESSENCE.COM
I was deeply honored to present the Star Honoree award to my dear friend Michael Kors.¬† You might know him as one of the judges of ‚ÄúProject Runway,‚ÄĚ but he is a beyond seasoned designer.
The Fashion Group International is the pre-eminent authority on the business of fashion and design and this year’s Star Honorees not only included my dear Michael Kors but also Frida Gianini of Gucci, Milliner Stephen Jones and Victoire de Castellane ¬†of Dior Fine Jewelry.
The event was held at Cipriani Wall Street and packed with celebrities from Gwen Stefani, Eva Mendes, Jon Bon Jovi, Michael Stipes, Mary J. Blige, Evan Rachel Wood, Emmy Rossum ¬†and James Franco and fashion’s biggest talents from Michael Kors (of course!), Oscar de la Renta, Vera Wang, Tommy Hilfigher ¬†and Kenneth Cole. ¬†
When I was just about to get up to present the award to Michael, I realized that I hadn’t¬† printed my speech in a bigger font….you see I need reading glasses so usually when there are no teleprompters I print my speech in humongous letters, but I didn’t check tonight as my assistant print it out for me!
I realized there is no way I could read this so I started asking around the tables for a pair of reading glasses. ¬†After several tries and nothing, thankfully, a gentleman gave me his glasses that were a perfect match and I thought, ‚Äúnow I have to work the glasses in the speech!‚ÄĚ¬† So I did…. and guess what?¬† WWD wrote:
‚ÄúIman could have easily picked up “crowd favorite” for her speech introducing fashion award winner Michael Kors.¬† She said ‚ÄėThank you, Vera Wang, Tommy Hilfigher, Oscar de la Renta, and all the other designers who told me that I look more beautiful and younger than ever. ¬†But ladies, don’t fret – getting older is a b–ch!‚Äô‚ÄĚ
That is when I put the reading glasses on!¬† It pays sometimes to think fast on your feet and make mistakes or misfortunes work for you.
I said in my speech this (among other things,) ‚ÄúFor 28 years, Michael was consistently stood for a relaxed kind of luxury which is the hallmark of American Style. His sporty glamour has traveled the fashion globe from Bond Street in London, to the Via Sant Andrea in Milan, to seven years at the helm of Celine in Paris. He has seen his American point of view become an increasingly international point of view. Watching his shows is like a 13 min escape from everyday life. He takes us away from Aspen to Gstad to Capri and Palm Beach and back to urban Manhattan.‚ÄĚ
Congrats, Michael! Mwah!
Iman in custom made Michael Kors gown and Fred Leighton jewelry
I met Chanel Iman when she started modeling some years ago and interviewed her for Vibe magazine. Although Vibe magazine has not survived these hard economic times, I am quiet certain Chanel Iman is here to stay. I asked her some questions so take a look…
Chanel Iman and me.
1. Were you named after me?
I would love to say I was named after such an amazing model, but truth is, I was named after a male cousin named Iman. My mother loved the name and wanted to used it for a boy or girl name when she was pregnant with me.¬† She had just read the book “COCO” and was inspired to name me Chanel after the great fashion icon.¬† So was born….. Chanel Iman. Growing up wanting to model… I use to say “Chanel Iman, like the model IMAN”. I’m proud to have your name.
2. What is your fave jeans?
It’s hard to find the perfect jeans, but for me William Rast or Rock & Republic.
3. Who is your fave designer or designers and why?
I have so many fav designers, I love them all for different reasons. Zac Posen has dressed me in some of my favorite looks like the amazing gown I wore at the last Met ball….LOVED. I always look forward to working with John Galliano ….. what a creative designer! I could go on and on about each of them, and in the end I have to say I love them all.
4. Who is your fave photographer or photographers and why?
As a model who loves working with Photographers around the world, its impossible to pick just one or a few that I love. I learn so much from each of them as each brings out a different Chanel Iman in me. I will say, my favorite part of being a model is the experience of working with so many creative photographers.¬† I love photo shoots.
5. Who is your fave model of all time and why?
When I think of Favorite Models of all times, I have to think of those who have had struggles to become who they are in this industry. Knowing what struggles are (as I have had a few of my own) I am inspired and grateful that many paved the way for me.¬† You Iman, Beverly Johnson, Tyra Banks, Naomi and Alec are an inspiration to young girls around the world.¬†¬† I also have to say Kate Moss who has had her own struggles and overcame them. I love you all.
6. Among your contemporaries who is your fave model and why?
I’m not really a person who has favorites when it comes to people who are close to me. There are many models I love seeing when I’m working, but there are those that I consider my friends and we receive each other like family.¬† Just to mention a few and not in any order, Doutzen, Jourdan, Karlie, Hillary, Agnes, Coco, Jessica, Marina….. the list goes on. My best friend is a model and room mate, Heidy Allende.
7. What is your beauty essential?
My beauty essential is simply clean skin and hair.
8. You travel a lot… what is your fave luggage?
I’ve heard some horror stories about stolen item from luggage during travel. I take and check my most raggedy bag so that the outer value won’t determine the inner value of what I’ve packed. However, my carry on is my ole faithful Louis Vuitton.
9. New York, Paris or Milan…. which is your fave city and why?
After NY during the fashion tour London, Milan and Paris, I look forward to Paris the most. Paris because I’m most at home there. Also because it means fashion week is almost over and I get to go home.
10. What was your first major cover? who shot it? any personal story behind it?
My first major cover was Vogue. Anna Wintour selected 10 girls naming them the World’s Next Top Models shot by Steven Meisel. I was the youngest (16) and the only minority…¬† In fact the third African American to ever grace the cover of Vogue. I know there were other Blacks, IMAN, Naomi, I think Alec and Liya.¬† But only three African Americans….. Beverly Johnson, Tyra Banks and Chanel Iman.
11. The Met/Model as a Muse…. what was the highlight of the evening for you?
The Met Ball always makes me feel like I have arrived! To be in the presence of such an prestigious group is just amazing to me. To be in the mist of the worlds most creative fashion people is a night never to forget.
12. What is on your iPod?
Beyonce, Mary J. and Madonna.
13. We know models eat. What is your fave food?
I love to eat.¬† Everyone knows I love soul food and have a weakness for sweets. I eat all of the time. Lately, I’ve been cooking at home. I’m learning the art of cooking and really enjoying my own family recipes in my own kitchen.
14. Guilty pleasure?
My guilty pleasure is the spa. I say guilty because when I am submerged at the spa, I know there are those that will never experience the feeling of such an awesome luxury.
15. Describe your perfect day.
My perfect day is somewhere on a beach front or by the pool at a resort. A perfect day can also be at home in LA, in my car, visiting my family and friends.
Want to see more? Watch the behind the scenes video of People Magazine 35th anniversary shoot with me and Chanel Iman on Modelinia.