Iris Apfel – the 96 year old fashion icon

Iris Apfel – the 96 year old fashion icon

In my last post I mentioned fashion legend Iris Apfel. A self confessed ‘accessory freak’ I’ve always been aware of but never looked greatly in depth at. That was until today. In our seminar last week my lecturer made it clear we need to know more about fashion history, and the more I thought about it the more I realised I have little to no knowledge on the history of fashion. That being said, I’ve made it my mission, in between doing actual uni assignments, to research more on what’s made fashion what it is today, and Iris seemed the perfect place to start. An eccentric dresser, true New Yorker, and all round cool lady, Iris is the kind of 96 year old we should all aim to be.

To understand who Iris truly is I decided to watch her documentary ‘Iris’ on netflix. Directed by the late Albert Maysles, the documentary really captures Iris’ spirit, and this is what really made me fall in love with her. A lady as adored as Iris is within the fashion world, you would expect her to shop in high end, designer stores exclusively, yet in reality we see her shopping in African clothing stores in Harlam, Palm Beach Vintage shops, and even purchasing a hat for her husband from a market stall – all whilst proving she’s an excellent haggler!

The documentary also featured snippets of Iris’ busy daily life. From TV appearances, designing jewellery lines, attending award shows (and having celebs gush about how much they love her) – Iris does it all. One of my favourite scenes featured David Hoey and Linda Fargo, (who dress the windows at Bergdorf Goodmans, to which I’ve dedicated a whole different blog post to), and as Iris helped put together outfits to go on the mannequins, you really got to see how she pieces her iconic looks together.

Other than seeing Iris at work, the most touching part of the documentary was seeing her interact with her now late husband Carl, who died in 2015 a few days shy of his 101st birthday. The pair, who shared 68 years of marriage together, were a joy to watch. Their house in New York looks like an episode of hoarders to you and I, but to them it’s a treasure trove of items they’ve collected in their years together – including lots of Christmas decorations, stuffed animals and costume jewellery! Delving further into Iris’ past I discovered her and Carl started a textiles company, called ‘Old World Weavers’, in the 1950’s. They went on to provide fabrics for the White House, and eventually did house design projects for 9 different presidents, and I think this is when Iris’ love of pattern and fashion really grew.

Since then Iris has left a trail of colour, pattern and lots of jewellery wherever she goes! She has her own emojis, a jewellery collection with HSN, a clothing line with Macy’s and has contributed to numerous fashion exhibitions including the Rara Avis 2005 exhibit, featured at the Met, which displayed items of her clothing that Iris herself had curated over the years and gifted to the museum. Just last month she had a Barbie doll designed after her, which seems fitting for such a outspoken, hardworking fashion icon.

Iris Apfel’s style isn’t necessarily my cup of tea, but that’s not the point. She herself describes her style as ‘big, bold and lots of pizzazz’, and I think that’s what makes her so special. She’s stayed true to herself up until this point, so why stop now? In an interview last year she said ‘you could be totally minimal and look fabulous, it’s a matter of attitude’, and I think that’s Iris’ whole ethos – anything can be stylish as long as you have the attitude to carry it off, and at 96 years old I don’t see Iris losing that attitude any time soon!

Until next time,

Beth x

Images sourced from WWD, Youtube, Pinterest, Hollywood Reporter and Vogue

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