Supermodels come and go, but nobody does it like Iman. The Somali-American model’s extraordinary career has spanned decades and continents: from being scouted as a political science student at the University of Nairobi, to working as a muse to some of the world’s most influential designers. The legendary model walked the historic 1973 Battle of Versailles show, was described by Yves Saint-Laurent as his “dream woman”, and even wore Hervé Leger to marry David Bowie in 1992, at what could easily be described as the coolest wedding ever.
But that’s only half the story: raised during a period of political turmoil in her home country of Somalia, the supermodel has championed social causes from the very beginning of her career. Across the years, she has involved herself with various civil rights organisations, including The Children’s Defense Fund, Action Against Hunger and Raise Hope For Congo; was a key part of a global campaign to end the trade of blood diamonds, memorably cutting ties with De Beers over a conflict of ethics; and notably launched a cosmetics line in 1994 specifically catering to women of color, a galling vacuum within the beauty industry that has only been more fully addressed very recently.
In honor of her multifaceted career, Iman was awarded with the Franca Sozzani Award last night, an accolade established in the memory of the celebrated Vogue Italia editor-in-chief by her son, Francesco Carrozzini. Recognizing women within the fashion world who have also pioneered humanitarian causes, previous recipients include Salma Hayek and Julianne Moore. Staged on the opening night of the Venice Film Festival in the sophisticated locale of the Hotel Cipriani, the event called for full-throttle glamour—and as the central honoree, Iman didn’t disappoint.
Arriving to the ceremony by water taxi, the model sported a look from Pierpaolo Piccioli’s latest Valentino Haute Couture collection: a billowing, dramatic violet gown covered from head to toe with ruched taffeta. With such an opulent piece (and, of course, Iman’s glowing natural beauty) it didn’t take much in the way of accessories to bring the look to life: just a smoky eye, a lick of purple lipstick, and a single diamond earring to add a more sultry touch. It seems that even if the night might have been largely in celebration of her humanitarian work, Iman was also taking the opportunity to once again serve us an iconic fashion moment—not that we needed reminding.
Originally Appeared on Vogue