It was the first snowstorm of the season on the evening that I had dinner with Carmen Dell’Orefice, Iman, and Coco Rocha at the Waverly Inn in Greenwich Village. I arrived at 7:30 for our 8 o’clock rendezvous, but by the time Iman materialized five minutes later—her business meeting ended early—I had already been offered a drink by a fellow patron, who overheard my surname and convinced himself that I hail from Downton Abbey. “I should never have lent them that house,” I say, thanking him. I am loath to disappoint.

Iman and I settled into a discreet booth watched over by Ed Sorel’s witty and richly detailed portraits of legendary New Yorkers past. I first met Iman 20 years ago, and one of us, at least, has neglected to age. Coco arrived wearing the kind of La Dolce Vita eyeliner that made me happy I’d brought along a brush pen. A few minutes later, Carmen joined us, after spending the afternoon at the doctor’s office. “I’m in the best shape he’s ever seen for someone who is falling apart,” she joked.

Drinks? Why not. Coco and I also ordered the chicken potpie, Carmen had steak, and Iman chose the salmon. The lively conversation covered their children, who range in age from Coco’s 18-month-old son to Carmen’s 66-year-old daughter; the catwalk; and photographers, both past and present. Carmen brought along an original transparency of Iman taken in the 80s by her great collaborator and friend Norman Parkinson. Iman, who had never seen it before, was delighted.

I started to draw, and as I let the evening take on its own rhythm, I found myself reflecting on the fashion industry’s bad rap. True, it has its share of egomaniacs and airheads, but it has also brought me into the orbit of these women for whom integrity and humor and style and substance are second nature. And that’s before you get to the beauty.

David Downton is a fashion illustrator and Editor at Large for Air Mail based in London