Iman and Michael Kors Remember an Age When Models Were Encouraged to Have Opinions

Iman in the CFDA Journal.

Tonight at the CFDA awards, The Fashion Show's new co-host, Iman, will receive the Fashion Icon award. Why? Aside from being a beauty who's, well, iconic, the Times explains:

The choice of Iman by the council’s board wasn’t obvious — it’s not as if she is known for her distinctive way of dressing, like the recent honorees Kate Moss (2005) and Sarah Jessica Parker (2004). But the decision seemed to have come almost spontaneously, according to Diane von Furstenberg, the group’s president: “Somebody, I don’t remember who it was, mentioned Iman’s name at the meeting, and everybody said ‘Wow.’ The vote was unanimous.”

Oh, so the CFDA works in ways as mysterious as we've always suspected. But Iman, who launched her cosmetics line for women of color in 1994 and now sells a line of caftans and other accessories on QVC, also has a point of view — one that designers respect, and that at least Michael Kors seems to miss.

After moving to New York in 1975 having never worn makeup or high heels:

She credits the nurturing she got from designers, who gave her confidence in an era when model-muses were prized for their individuality — and their own ideas. “We were allowed to talk and to change things,” she said.

Designers like Yves Saint Laurent or Mr. Mugler expected her to speak up. “ ‘Do you like that? Would you wear it that way?’ ”she said. “You could be your own person. And nobody walked the same way on the runway.”

“Don’t get me wrong, there are great girls today,” she said, listing stars like Raquel Zimmermann, Coco Rocha and her namesake Chanel Iman. “But they have lost that role, of collaborating with the designers. There is not that relationship anymore.”

It’s an opinion shared by Mr. Kors, who recalled his first fashion show in 1984, when Iman restyled a shawl her way before she hit the catwalk and how much better it looked.

“No way would that happen today,” he said. “It’s hard for a 16-year-old model to have an opinion.”

It's also hard for us to recognize all the new, young girls, and we wish we could. If models are allowed to have curves and work past the age of 22 again, maybe the industry will encourage them to vocalize their opinions, too.

Iman: Not Just Another Pretty Face [NYT]