Vanities: Iman’s favorite perfume and home fragrance


Bowie and Iman in 1990 (Photo by Ron Galella)

To say that I’ve spent most of 2018 (to date) immersed in all things David Bowie would be an understatement.

That situation is about to change, but I can’t help writing one post here about Iman, the model and entrepreneur who was his wife from 1992 until his death in 2016. I could spend all day looking at photos of them together, but I’ll try to keep this post short and sweet and scent-related.

Essence of Iman, via eBay

What perfume does Iman wear? Well, she established her own cosmetics line in 1994 and released a fragrance, Essence of Iman, in 2000. It was later discontinued. I’ve never tried it; if you’re a fan, please comment and tell us why you like it!

Robert Piguet Fracas: the ultimate tuberose perfume

In a list of her “10 favorite things” published in the Chicago Tribune in 2005, Iman said:

“Fracas. I’ve worn Fracas for 25 years. There is a depth of mystery to the fragrance. It is my fragrance now and I will never change it.”

Well, never say never…we can always expand our fragrance wardrobes!

Iman in her office, photographed by Nina Westervelt for ELLE Decor in 2014. (That Warholesque, blue-and-red print of Iman on the glass end table is Bowie’s own artwork, incidentally.)

I just came across an 2014 interview with Iman in ELLE Decor that included another “shortlist” of favorite things. Here, Iman mentioned Tom Ford Neroli Portofino as a scent she often wears: “This fragrance takes me to the Italian Riviera.”

Refreshing but oh so $$$

She likes to wear it in various concentrations, even mixing the fragranced body oil into the matching body lotion. (She also cited Neroli Portofino in a 2012 interview with Into the Gloss.)

(I personally feel that Neroli Portofino is wildly overpriced, and I can recommend the classic 4711 or Thymes Neroli Sol as more affordable alternatives, but hey, if you can spring for the Ford, go for it.)

What else?—a mention of home fragrance!

Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 5.48.46 PM.png
A cult classic blend of black currant leaves, black currant buds, and Bulgarian rose

Iman loves Diptyque candles: “Baies for my office, Gardénia for home,” she tells ELLE. I love Baies too. (Stars: they’re just like us. Not really, but anyone who doesn’t love Baies must be a miserable person with bad taste.)

I’ve never purchased Gardénia, only because I’m not a big white-floral fan, but I like imagining David Bowie walking into their penthouse on Lafayette street and catching a lush whiff of this candle.

Diptyque Gardénia

As the Diptyque website tells us about gardenia, “This sublimely romantic and elegant flower is often worn as a boutonniere on a stylish lapel or shoulder strap of an evening gown. The famous British dandy, G. Brummell started the trend among high society back in the 19th century. The gardenia is also the symbol of courtesy.”

That all seems to fit the Joneses’ home-life….as I imagine it, at least.

Whatever Iman is doing today, I bet she’s been thinking about the end of the 5-year tour of “David Bowie is” too, and I’m sure she smells wonderful.


  1. I could not forget the Iman fragrance. But I couldn’t find it until I found it used and for sale. I describe it as a strong but alluring woman. Someone I’m not. I’ll try the other fragrances now that I know about them.


    • Thank you for sharing this memory! I hope I’ll get to try it someday. I really admire Iman and all her work. And that’s one of the joys of fragrance, that they allow us to be someone we aren’t (or don’t think we are)!


  2. I absolutely LOVE Essence of Iman, and am SO disappointed to find it’s been discontinued!! To this day, I try to find someone that has a stockpile of it for sell! It has such a unique smell! When my son was very young, I sent him to grab my leather coat in a slew of other leather coats after church service one Sunday. I will never forget that he told me he automatically knew which was mine because it smelled like me … Iman. I wear Gucci, Mademoiselle, however; Essence of Iman will forever be my favorite. I wish I knew whether or not this new fragrance is anything similar. Even more so, I wish she would bring back the original Essence of Iman! Although it touches my heart SO VERY deeply, that this fragrance, Love Memoir is in honor of her love. Beautiful!!


    • I wish I’d had the opportunity to try Essence of Iman! (It’s funny that Iman has been saying in recent interviews that Love Memoir is her first fragrance…not sure why or how that is.) I’m looking forward to trying Love Memoir nonetheless, and I’ll be sure to report back. Thanks for reading and commenting!


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