‘As If We Were a Trend to be Disposed of’: Supermodel Iman Says She Boycotted Celine Bags After Claiming the Designer Made Racist Remarks After Feeling ‘Forced’ to Hire Black Models 

Iman is not shelling out money to support designers who refuse or push back on hiring Black models. In her own way, the fashion icon has been quietly boycotting a luxury brand’s coveted handbags after an encounter that took place a decade ago.

Iman boycotted Céline bags after claiming designer Phoebe Philo felt forced to hire Black models. (Photo: @The_real_iman/Instagram.)

A “Sway’s Universe” interview from 2022 has begun recirculating on Twitter, where the Somalian beauty shared her story.

In it, she explained how her Diversity Coalition — which includes Naomi Campbell and former model Bethann Hardison — put fashion houses and the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Inc. on notice about their lack of non-white models in shows heading into the 2013 New York Fashion Week.

Iman claimed that runway casting agents were reaching out to agencies in search of only white talent. The agents “would say, ‘We’re not seeing Black models this season.’ As if we were a trend to be disposed of,” she claimed.

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The Iman Cosmetics founder further explained that highlighting the racist practices “was not about calling them out or canceling them out. Was actually calling them in and making them understand first. I’m giving you the opportunity to know what casting agents are saying on your behalf. Now, if you’re okay with that, then I’m going to call you words.”

The “Star Trek VI” actress alleged that designer Phoebe Philo was especially resistant to the thought of having a diverse cast of models represent the Celine brand. Philo served as creative director from 2008 until 2018, when she retired. Under her guidance, Celine’s bags became a must-have item among celebrities and the wealthy.

“Every woman, Black, white, of every age that I know of coveted Céline bags. You know, it was always on a wait list, wait list, wait list,” said Iman. Philo had never used Black models to represent the line. Her response to the Diversity Coalition’s call to action made it clear she was uninterested in changing course.

“She said, ‘Am I going to be forced to use Black models?’ I said, ‘No. There’s gotta be the right Black model for you. You know, there can’t be no Black model that’s not right for you,’” recalled Iman.

“Just by she saying that, I said — and I did this because I’ve done it but I never said it, you know, publicly — I said for the action that she’s saying she has to have the choice not to use Black models, that’s why I have never bought a Celine bag.”

“She has the right to her runway, and I have a right to my pocketbook … that’s what I mean by boycott. It’s like it’s lots of bags I can own. I don’t need a Celine bag, especially if she feels nothing for me,” continued the icon.

Philo is expected to make her fashion return with the reported launch of her eponymous line by the end of the month. More of Iman’s stories of the industry can be found in the “Supreme Models” documentary on YouTube.

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