Iman Leaves De Beers

The De Beers retail stores have lost their “style icon.”

Iman, the African supermodel who for two years was the public face of the chain, no longer will represent it in public appearances and advertisements.

De Beers LV spokeswoman Joan Parker says the two sides are parting because the chain no longer plans to use celebrities in its advertisements.

Following the announcement, Survival International, the NGO publicizing the cause of the Bushmen in Botswana, took credit for her leaving. Survival had called for a boycott of both Iman and De Beers, claiming that diamonds are the reason the Bushmen are being expelled from their ancestral homes.

“That’s ridiculous,” says Parker. “The Bushman issue has nothing to do with diamonds. This is a decision that was mutually arrived at.”

Survival’s boast that it got Iman to step down prompted De Beers to issue a press release “setting the record straight” on the issue. It noted that independent observers, including members of Parliament “have visited Botswana to assess the situation for themselves and have all confirmed that there is no connection between Botswana government policy and diamonds. Even local Botswana NGOs, who have been campaigning on behalf of the Bushmen for some time, have issued statements to that effect. … While De Beers respects Survival International’s right to campaign on behalf of indigenous peoples, it is quite improper in this case to involve diamond mining in an unrelated dispute. This has repeatedly been made clear to Stephen Corry of Survival International, and De Beers regrets that he continues to attempt to mislead his members, the media, and the general public in this way.”

In response, Survival noted that Iman herself has spoken out against the Bushmen relocation.

Iman’s image is still a heavy presence on the De Beers LV Web site and in stores, and Parker says they will continue to use it for a period of time.

In March the chain got a new CEO, Cartier veteran Guy Leymarie, whose appointment pushed back the planned openings of stores in Los Angeles and New York, Parker says. Originally scheduled for this year, the stores now are set to open in 2005.