When I was growing up, David Bowie was my idol. I grew up in inner-city London, and he was from Brixton, which is even more urban. What’s that album cover where he’s sitting on the steps of that tenement block? The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. For me, that connected.
I felt like I grew up with Bowie. I never dressed like him, even though I did love the music, but consistently throughout my career he has been a go-to reference point: The suit from Young Americans, or the gold Missoni-type looks of Ziggy Stardust. “The Berlin Years” still influences me. The movie Christiane F., which he did the soundtrack for. In the '80s, it was China Girl, because I do love, and have always loved, the idea of androgyny and the existence of a third sex. And of course, I always loved the makeup—Pat McGrath and I grew up loving Bowie together. For a lot of young kids who were different, he will always mean so much.
Later on in life, I realized we lived on the same block in SoHo, in New York, which is weird.
So the irony of all this came when I met him a few years ago, when we worked with Iman on an H For Tommy Hilfiger campaign together [in 2003]. He looked at my book before he met me and said, “Oh my god, I thought I was in these pictures!” At the time, every picture I did with the photographer Craig McDean was, basically, “The Girl Who Fell to Earth.” I had been too intimidated to reach out to him before. I was in awe. But in person, he was so funny.
I remember being on the shoot with him and Iman—we shot in Amsterdam and then in New York, at Mr Chow’s—and it was just endless jokes. Joke after joke after joke. If you know Iman, she’s hilarious. So it makes sense that they’re a couple, because he’s got this amazing sense of humor. They were two icons, but a normal couple.
This morning, when I heard the news, I tried to get through to Iman. I sent a text. She’s a great friend, but a private person. I’m still so saddened; it was so sudden. David Bowie was the most inspiring creative genius of our times—of many peoples’ times. And he was also just a London boy, who happened to be visited by such greatness.
W's fashion and style director Edward Enninful as told to Fan Zhong.