An iconoclastic designer of textiles, jewelry and clothing, Iris Apfel is still going strong at 94.
AN Celebrates: Iris Apfel, Design Legend
LOOK AT IRIS
You’ll see a tall, thin woman with a shock of short, straight white hair, and a New York accent. She doesn’t believe in much makeup (except for vivid, red lipstick), or cosmetic treatments of any kind. Her 94 years of wrinkles are made irrelevant by the glow of her intense joy in living and doing.
Iris Apfel was born in 1921. In 1950, Iris and her husband, Carl, developed a textile business that ultimately included interior restoration projects at the White House for nine presidents.
While traveling around the world buying textiles, Iris fell in love with non-Western, artisanal clothing. She wore them to business meetings and society parties, gaining converts to her unusual fashion sense. By 1992, when Iris and Carl retired from the textile business, Iris was turning into a fashion icon. By 2011, at the age of 90, she had her own line of clothing and accessories at the Home Shopping Network (HSN).
“MORE IS MORE”
Iris’ unique approach to style starts with black-rimmed, saucer-sized glasses and brashly whimsical clothes. To this she adds many layers of colorful, outsized necklaces and bangles and bracelets. She buys clothing and accessories everywhere—from high-price designers to international flea markets. In over 70 years her taste hasn’t changed much, but age has apparently brought more authority to her esthetic. In 2013, she was listed as one of the fifty “Best-Dressed Women over 50” by Great Britain’s The Guardian.
FAME CAME LATE
Iris didn’t become famous until 2005, when the Metropolitan Museum of Art mounted an exhibition that included her personal collection of fashion finds—both high- and low-end. It was a last-minute show with little promotion, but a huge success anyway, and ended by becoming a popular traveling exhibit.
NEVER TOO LATE
Despite her aching bones (“everything I have two of hurts”) Iris continues to blast through life. She believes that as long as you’re having fun, it’s never too late to take a chance on new opportunities.
For more information:
• aplaceformom.com - inspirational women over 60
• stylenews.peoplestylewatch.com - Iris Apfel documentary
• wikipedia.org - Iris Apfel
• thedailybeast.com - fabulous life of Iris Apfel