Iman memorializes her late husband, David Bowie, in her first cruelty-free fragrance, Love Memoir.
Nearly six years after David Bowie’s death at age 69 from liver cancer, his wife Iman is still processing the loss. The couple was married for nearly 24 years in a romance they both described as love at first sight.
“I’ve been asked to write about David and our love so many times. But my favorite autobiographer is the one who tells it all. I’m not going to tell you all,” Iman, 66, told Vogue. “And so, this is my way.” She’s speaking of her cosmetic brand’s first fragrance, Love Memoir.
“Scent is such an emotional thing, so when it came to making my first one, it had to be right,” she said.
A love memoir
The Somali supermodel worked with Calvin Klein alum and Batallure Beauty cofounder, Robin Burns-McNeill, to develop the fragrance. It blends notes of vetiver—a scent Bowie wore the day he and Iman met, and until his death.
She also added rose, which is her tribute to his British roots.
You know, he always wanted to go back to England,” she says. “So when we came [to upstate New York], I made sure that there was a feeling of England—for example, nothing about the garden is too structured.”
The fragrance is balanced with notes of blackberry and bergamot—a move Iman says reminds her of the Italian countryside where the couple was married.
“Florence was on my mind so much throughout the process of formulating the fragrance because the sunset upstate [New York] reminded me of the times we spent in Tuscany,” Iman says. “All the memories came flooding back.”
Cosmetics for women of color
A pioneer in cosmetics specifically formulated for women of color, Iman launched her eponymous cosmetics line in 1994, just two years after her marriage to Bowie.
“First, we should give due credit to the ’70s makeup brand Fashion Fair, which was exclusively for Black women. What I created was for women of color. And let’s not forget Rihanna; she’s the one who came with 40 shades of foundation for Fenty Beauty,” she told W Magazine last month.
“We have always been the masters of our own destinies. We force people to change. Less than 10 years ago, five years ago, you know, there was the idea that you had to be invited to the table. Nobody cares now. I can buy my own table. I can build my own table. And it’s not just about using models. It’s about hiring Black creatives, putting people in decision-making positions. We’re owning how we want to be seen, not how people ‘should’ see us,” she said.
For Iman, that means putting the brand forward to lift up other women of color. The label conducts workshops and donates cosmetics to the Santa Monica College Business Department Career Closet, which supports economically disadvantaged students with clothing, accessories, and cosmetics to help them when interviewing for jobs or other career events.
It also supports the InterCultural Council and the Dorothy I. Height Center for Health Equity and Evaluation Research with free and affordable breast cancer screenings for women in diverse communities. The brand also supports language programs to assist disadvantaged public school students in New York City. It also sponsors the Shoes 4 Africa program.
Iman says coming from a country where everyone was Black, she didn’t grow up thinking of herself as “less than” anyone.
“A couple of months after I arrived in the United States, in 1975, I found out they were paying Black models less than our counterparts, and I said, ‘I’m not doing this.’ If I’m doing the same job as the white model, I have to be compensated. I went on strike for three months. And then, of course, they raised my rate,” she told W.
A true original in her own right, Iman says being original means independent thinking, and sometimes, walking away.
“The person I always thought of—and this was way before we met—was my husband [Bowie]. I used to go to all his shows, and I never met him until we were set up years later. He was the first artist that I thought, ‘Wow, how original.’ And he’s still original,” she said.
The new fragrance, like all of Iman Cosmetics products, is cruelty-free. It’s available exclusively at HSN.