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Iman Launches Her First Fragrance, Inspired By Her Love Story With David Bowie

Iman photographed by Patrick Demarchelier for Vogue Arabia March 2018.

Even on a gloomy afternoon in mid-August, as heavy storm clouds hover in the valley below, the panoramic view of the Catskill Mountains from Iman’s living room is top-of-the-world stunning. Looking out onto the verdant landscape through the floor-to-ceiling windows feels akin to wearing an enormous pair of binoculars. “Hmm. I’m not sure that we’ll see the sunset today,” says Iman, who is seated at her circular dining room table in front of a laptop. She’s dressed in a long robe printed with black and saffron yellow flowers reminiscent of the black-eyed Susans growing along a fieldstone wall outside. She pulls up a gallery of golden-hour images to offer proof of just what I’m missing. “The sight of the beautiful sunset would make me cry,” she says, scrolling through dozens of shots. “But the crying was more of a, Oh, I wish you were here. The minute you think, This is too gray, then, along comes the sun.”

Iman with David Bowie. Photo: Getty

When David Bowie died of liver cancer on January 10, 2016, at the age of 69, the world mourned the passing of an icon. An outpouring of grief from Bowie’s fans and friends stretched across the globe. But for Iman, who was all of a sudden without her husband of 24 years, the pain and loss were confined to the walls of the home the couple shared in upstate New York, just outside of Woodstock, where Bowie finished his final album. “After he was gone, it was very difficult for me to come here. I was always sad,” she says, recalling her last significant memory with Bowie at the house: a Thanksgiving gathering with their then teenage daughter, Lexi, now 20, his son from a previous marriage, Duncan Jones, and Jones’s wife, Rodene. “I would come maybe six days out of the year. And every time I came, I couldn’t wait to leave,” adds Iman. But in March of 2020, she piled into the car outside of her apartment in the West Village with model and activist Bethann Hardison, her longtime friend, and decamped for the country. As lockdown stretched on and her days upstate became weeks, then months, she was overcome by feelings of unresolved grief. “Being here meant I couldn’t escape how I felt. I had to sit with my grief, confront it, go through it,” she says. “And that’s what this place did for me. It literally saved me.”

The supermodel and beauty entrepreneur has been on a private path toward emotional recovery, in the woods, ever since. As we stroll along her front lawn, Iman pauses to show me several small stone columns nestled among the trees: “David would always say that in ancient times, these towers were used for navigation to let people know they were on the right track,” she explains of the handmade formations—or cairns, as they are known in Scottish Gaelic. “Stacking them on my walks became this very calming ritual each day. It was a way to honor his memory, but also a reminder that I was in the right place, that this,” she says, pausing, “was my right space.” They also inspired Iman’s proudest bout of pandemic productivity: an amber glass bottle crafted in the shape of a cairn and filled with her first fragrance, a love letter to her relationship with Bowie. “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,” she says, adjusting the tiny gold necklace that bears her late husband’s first name. “And so, this is my way.”

Iman modeling in New York in 1975. Photo: Getty

Much of Iman and Bowie’s epic romance has been endlessly mythologized. Both extraordinary and almost otherworldly in their own right, the two of them seemed destined to cross paths. Bowie swore it was love at first sight when he was introduced to Iman by a mutual friend in 1990, and the courtship that followed was the stuff of celebrity fairy tale. When he proposed a year later, Bowie rented a boat on the river Seine in Paris, secretly arranging for the lights on each bridge to go up as they drifted by. Iman remembers every last detail from their wedding day in the summer of 1992, too—an intimate ceremony held at an unassuming church in Florence that was followed by a reception at a 16th-century Medici mansion—including the spritzes of Robert Piguet’s Fracas that she wore. “I don’t cheat on my fragrances,” says the 66-year-old, whose staggering beauty is still almost heart-stopping in person. “Scent is such an emotional thing, so when it came to making my first one, it had to be right.”

Called Love Memoir, the eau de parfum—which is exclusively available on HSN—blends notes that read like a chapter in Iman and Bowie’s life together. Vetiver, the zesty scent that he wore the day they met and every day after, is balanced with hints of bergamot and blackberry, which bring to mind the Italian countryside where they were married. “Florence was on my mind so much throughout the process of formulating the fragrance because the sunset upstate reminded me of the times we spent in Tuscany,” says Iman, who undertook the project with Calvin Klein alum and Batallure Beauty cofounder Robin Burns-McNeill. “All the memories came flooding back,” she continues, noting that the packaging is printed with a distinctive sunset scene she painted herself. There’s a trace of rose as well, a tribute to Bowie’s British heritage. “You know, he always wanted to go back to England,” she says. “So when we came here, I made sure that there was a feeling of England—for example, nothing about the garden is too structured.”

Situated on 50 acres, the property was a hidden gem when Iman came across it in 2011. Bowie had fallen for Woodstock while recording his 22nd studio album, Heathen (2002), at nearby Allaire Studios, and the location ticked all the right boxes for the famously low-key couple: a short drive from town, it was accessible while being suitably secluded and could function as both a creative retreat and entertainment space for their family and friends, several of whom had already moved upstate. Bowie was particularly enchanted by the forest of ethereal white birch trees—his favorite tree, says Iman—that encircled the unassuming, ’70s-era shed-roof house. “They intended for it to be their forever home, the place that they would be in when they were old and gray,” says Hardison, who has a house close by.

Love Memoir by IMAN Eau de Parfum. 

Filled with an eclectic mix of fine art, antiques, and artifacts from all over the world, the building itself—​a sleek, split-level, wood-paneled structure that’s painted black—echoes the story of a couple perfectly in sync. The famous Vogue portrait shot by Bruce Weber of Iman and Bowie stealing a kiss on the beach in Cape Town is one of the first things you see when you walk through an impressive set of ruby red double-front doors and into the open-plan living room, where two elegant West African stools, sourced in Senegal, stand back to back—one carved with the face of a king, the other a queen. On top of the kitchen cabinets, there is a row of glazed earthenware pots from Bali, where the couple honeymooned for a month. “To see two people who were creatively on the same page, really on the same page, is so very rare,” says Thom Filicia, the interior designer who worked with Iman and Bowie on renovating and decorating the space. “They had a very similar aesthetic, which I think they probably built together. It was never at all about being flashy. The choices they made were always evocative and interesting and dynamic and thoughtful.”


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On a low ebony coffee table, pieces from Bowie’s Memphis Group design collection—including two black-and-white Ettore Sottsass vases—sit in conversation with the painterly silhouette of a Kara Walker ceramic jug, hinting at a recurrent theme throughout the house: the notion of two halves coming together to create an exquisitely formed whole. A pair of life-size face sculptures resting on a cabinet are uncanny: Nearly identical in their symmetrical beauty, one is a mold that Bowie had made of his face, cast in resin, and the other is of his wife’s, cast in pewter. “I was never that person who would say, ‘Oh, he is with me,’ but his presence is definitely here,” says Iman, opening the terrace doors to let in the mountain air. “At night, when it gets dark, you just see the white limbs of the birch trees. There is something kind of spiritual and magical because it looks like they’re soldiers, like you’re being looked after,” she continues. “And that’s when I think, Yes, he’s here.”

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