Five years after rock star David Bowie's death, Iman opens up about how their "epic romance" lives on in this week's issue of PEOPLE

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They met on a blind date set up by a mutual friend in Los Angeles. He was the rock and roll genius and quicksilver creator of such hits as Ziggy Stardust and Space Oddity among a galaxy of others. She was the supermodel from Somalia, who spoke five languages and whose beauty and intelligence had enchanted the world of fashion and beyond.

"David said it was love at first sight," Iman, 66, tells PEOPLE. "It took me a few months but I got there."

Married in Florence, Italy, on June 6, 1992, there was no couple more dazzling and downtown cool than David Bowie and Iman. They found happiness in New York City where the musician could "hide in plain sight" in his favorite book shops and walking their daughter, Alexandria, home from school.

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"I knew him as the man, David Jones, his real name," Iman, the cosmetics pioneer and CARE global advocate, says. "And not the rock star."

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Credit: Ellen Von Unworth/Trunk Archive

Theirs was always a very private love story but now, over five years after his death from cancer in 2016, she has created her first fragrance, Love Memoir, exclusively available at HSN and hsn.com, a tribute to their "epic romance." 

The idea came to her while living at their country house nestled in the mountains in upstate New York. In the first few years after his death, it had been painful to spend much time there. "I just got very sad and would rush back to the city," she says. "I thought I had processed [the loss] but I had not." 

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There, in lockdown, she found a quiet solace amidst his favorite paintings, his ever present books, and the fiery sunsets they both loved. She also found the inspiration for the fragrance which weaves together woodsy vetiver (Tom Ford's Grey Vetiver was Bowie's favorite) and bergamot from Tuscany, where they had married. The result, she says, is "a monument to eternal love."

iman and bowie cover

It was a love story set in motion in 1990 after Iman moved briefly to L.A. "I had never intended to move there," she recalls in this week's PEOPLE. "It's not one of my favorite places. It's so vast but I personally believe now that was my destiny. My destiny was calling me to get there so I could meet David." 

After their first date, she recalls how she flew to Paris to walk the runway for her friend, Thierry Mugler. When she arrived at her hotel room, it was filled with flowers. Gardenias. And when she returned to L.A., he was there to meet her at the airport. "And that's how it started," she says. "He properly wooed me."

Yes, she was drawn to the musician for his kindness. "Early on, we were walking down the street and my shoelace came undone and he got on his knees to tie it for me and I thought he's the one." 

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But there was also their off the charts chemistry. "David was beyond handsome," she says. "He oozed charisma."

The two complemented each other in unexpected ways. "If David was not in my life, I don't know if I would have had the courage to start Iman Cosmetics [in 1994]" she says. "I asked him 'What if it fails?' and he said, 'If you don't try, you'll never know if it succeeds.'  He was very proud that it was one of the first lines to be very inclusive. Very chuffed, as he would say. Pleasantly happy."

Inclusivity was part of who he was. "David was very aware of racial inequality," recalls Iman. "There is a famous video of him on MTV asking why they're not hiring or showcasing Black musicians. He was very enlightened." 

In turn, she gave him a certain security. "I think David was able to open up more because with us, he felt safe," she says. "And I think his fans saw that he laughed and smiled more."  It was a feeling they shared. With him, she says "I felt cherished. Cherished and safe." 

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Now that he's gone, says Iman, "There are days that are harder than others but the memories are not all sad of why the person isn't here. The memories are now of how great it was."

"Sometimes I have to remind myself that I had 26 years. So I have that to sustain me."

And she has no thoughts of ever marrying again. When her daughter, Alexandria "Lexi" Jones, now 21, asked her about it, Iman recalls, "I said 'No, I will not.' I still feel married. Someone a few years ago referred to David as my late husband and I said 'No, he's not my late husband. He's my husband.'" 

"I definitely feel his presence, especially when I look out over the glorious sunsets at our home because David loves sunsets," she says. "So in that way he is ever present."

"Through my memory, my love lives."