Dress, Kaufman Franco ($4,595). Saks Fifth Avenue, Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave., 305-865-1100. Gilded bracelet, Masha Archer ($1,000). Saks Fifth Avenue, as before. Earrings, Platt Boutique Jewelry (price upon request). plattboutiquejewely.com

With a name like hers, it’s only fitting that Chanel Iman is one of the modeling industry’s rising stars. Having won third place in Ford Models’ Supermodel of the Year contest in January 2006 (with a few years of modeling already under her size-23 belt), she made her runway debut in the Fall shows of Marc Jacobs, Proenza Schouler and Derek Lam just one month later. Fast-forward to October of that year and she’s walking the Spring Valentino ready-to-wear show in Paris, followed by ad campaigns for Bottega Veneta, Ralph Lauren and the Gap, countless editorials, and even more struts down the runway. Three Vogue covers later (American, Teen and Korean), we caught up with the stunning Iman on the eve of her fourth couture season to discuss swapping her high-school prom for the Met Ball, Chucks for couture, and Kanye concerts for, well, Kanye.

OCEAN DRIVE: You must be getting ready to head to Paris for the couture shows.

CHANEL IMAN: Yes, I leave tomorrow, actually.

But it’s not your first couture season, right?

No, actually, Mr. Valentino put me in his final show—which was during my first couture season in January 2008.

What an amazing experience to have at such a young age.

It brought tears to my eyes. When we all walked out in his signature red dresses for the finale, and he took his last walk down the runway, people were applauding, people were crying—it was a very emotional show. He kind of discovered me in Paris, along with John Galliano and Jean Paul Gaultier, whom I’m a huge fan of.

Have you picked up any French at all?

Yeah, I’ve been traveling there since I was 14 so I know the basics. I’m still learning, but I know French enough to order a cheeseburger or ask where something is.

Are you close with any of the models whom you work with?

The American girls tend to stick together a bit. I’m really close with Hilary Rhoda and Karlie Kloss. We’re like “the American girls” when we go to Paris and we all hang out and have so much fun.

Do you all hang out backstage together?

Well, usually there’s a lot of waiting time, so we all bring things to keep ourselves occupied. We can be there for two to three hours, sometimes four—it depends on the show. Like at Dior, they go all out, and we may have to be there up to five hours ahead of time. A lot of the models read, or listen to their iPods. I’m always on the cell phone talking to my family back home.

Are you very close with your family?

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