Friday, August 22, 2008

Iman @ Thierry Mugler in 1985



This is a photo of Iman from Thierry Mugler's S/S 1985 runway show in Paris. She has a close association with Mugler (who has a huge African fetish thing going on back in the day) throughout her career. In fact, her final runway show was for Mugler in 1989.

Iman justifies Mugler's thought process by claiming that it allowed her to become a fantastic showperson on the runway. "He was like an anthropologist, re-creating folk couture. He had black girls with their heads shaved as Masai one season, with extended earlobes made for them - prosthetics for authenticity." 

Of this show, Iman said in her autobiography:

I've made many an entrance in my day, but never entered a runway as I did for a Mugler show. For one of his shows, I had two baby leopards in my arms. [For this show] I had a live baby monkey perched on my shoulder... and two gorgeously built black men in thongs walking behind me holding a huge umbrella...There were gasps and nervous laughter, then the roar of applause.

Photographer Eric Boman remarked that "Iman was boldly ethnic" and "made the other girls feel underprivileged not to be from Africa."

Ummm...okay, maybe you just had to be there. I'm curious if there was any criticism of this show in the press at the time but I guess I'll have to get to the library to find that answer. I love Iman and all but if I saw her strutting down the runway with a monkey I think I would have shit my pants. 

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Iman was also the convenient African that helped DeBeers escape the stigma of blood diamonds. Go figure.

Bonifant. said...

I mean if she has no problem walking on the runway with a monkey whatever.
Lets just hope after you shit yourself you have the presence of mind to clean up.
I usually get your POV but this post just left me shaking my head.

Brigitte said...

@bonifant

I can understand if you don't feel the same way. I guess my point was that I don't understand how Iman is at the forefront of trying to change the way black models are represented in fashion when at the same time she seemed to enjoy being treated like some exotic other during her career. And yeah, if I saw a black model strutting down a runway wearing jungle chic and a monkey for a French designer, I'd be a little shocked.

Bonifant said...

Maybe it's because even though she tries to show that black models have range she is still not afraid of cultural imagery stereotypes. She knows she is African and feels comfortable with those images/portrayals and feels ownership of them because they are a part of her thus she doesn't feel exploited. Yes they may try to make blacks look like they live on a constant safari trip but on the other hand if you constantly do things to avoid YT saying something its like you are not being true to yourself. To me its like a black person tryin not to eat watermelon or fried chicken around their white coworkers.I mean if you like it...
That being said I know Iman didn't grow up in the jungle much like I didn't grow up on a plantation in the Caribbean but growing up you are taught traditional dances your ancestors did and in doing those dances you wear the colonial type clothes. I was a dancer at home and it wasn't even like we were chuckin and jiving at hotels we had cultural shows to keep alive what went before with our ancestors. So someone may look at a pic of me "in costume" and think wow I hate that pic why is she dressing like a black nursemaid/voodoo priestess/market lady/african savage/slave but it doesn't bother me; and I guess it doesn't bother Iman either.

Brigitte said...

I understand where you are coming from and I realize that she's not necessarily going to share American views about racism and stereotypes. For example, she happily went along with Peter's Berg's made of story about discovering her tending livestock in Somalia when actually she was a college student so obviously she doesn't have a problems with it. In reading her book, I find that contradicts herself a lot (but then many of us do.) My personal thoughts about Iman on this little blog surely won't affect her (she'll go one doing what she does) but I will admit that my opinion of her taken a downturn.

Anonymous said...

Re: Iman and contradictions
I remembering reading an interview with her from several years ago. The article mentioned a trip to Africa with her daughter from her first marriage. According to the article, Zulekha expressed surprise that there were buildings in Africa. Iman grew angry and said something like what are you an ignorant white person or something like that. I mentioned this article to a friend of mine who suggested that it was Iman's responsibility to have taught her that Africa was not like that. In addition to that, it mentioned a dinner with Naomi Campbell, Mike Tyson and I think, Beverly Johnson. Campbell and Iman were laughing at the way Mike Tyson ate. I wondered about this. It seemed to say more about Iman and Campbell than Mike Tyson. As for the "jungle chic," I think the difference is that Iman is a model, and why do we so often see these images, often in leopard or zebra print, on black models.

Bonifant said...

I do respect your difference of opinion and its disappointing that your esteem for her has diminished but...I guess its just one of those things.

Brigitte said...

@bonifant and anon

Thanks for posting your comments. I appreciate it :)

how deep is beauty? said...

I remember back in the day hearing very racist comments attributed to Thierry Mugler; I can't remember what they were specifically now some 20 years later but the fact of them always stuck with me and always put me off his designs, so that coupled with these images...I'm with Brigitte on this one.