THE BEAUTY OF IRIS APFEL
Fashion icon Iris Apfel has had a lifetime of making her True Fashionista mark on the fashion industry. Her flair has been felt in numerous arenas, including designing interiors of the finest homes around the world, via the textile manufacturing company she founded with husband Carl called Old World Weavers, an eye-catching approach to accessorizing that effortlessly combines modern pieces with flea market finds. Ms. Apfel’s unique taste has taken her straight to the White House as a much sought-after expert consulting nine FLOTUS’ decisions on interior design specifications. The presidential list: Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Reagan and Clinton. We could just stop there, but we’d be doing a disservice.
At the young, hip age of 96 and forever adorned in her signature giant round glasses, this self-described “geriatric starlet” is still going strong with a recently launched ready-to-wear clothing line, an autobiography entitled Iris Apfel – Accidental Icon , and for your young daughter’s holiday wish list, a Barbie doll fashioned in her image. If you’re having trouble tracking down this hot item, Barbie has also released an Apfel-inspired “Styled By” doll, adorned in her now-iconic glasses and layers of chunky beaded necklaces from Apfel’s own Rara Avis collection. No surprise, then, she’s also been the subject of a documentary film.
Iris (2014), produced by Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles, is a charming insider look at the personality and wit of Mrs. Apfel, as well as the true love she shared with her late husband Carl in their 67-year marriage. Carl passed away this past August, just a few months shy of his 101stbirthday. In the film, which also celebrates his centenarian achievement, there is a wonderful moment where they are interviewed together in their New York apartment. “There was something about her that just got into me; it’s always there,” said Carl of his wife. Iris cuts in, laughing: “And I figured he was cool, and he was cuddly, and he cooked Chinese, so I couldn’t do any better.” Iris’ quirky, matter-of-fact persona is only magnified in the film by her sense of style and approach to life. Straight up, she’s a riot, and you really want her at your next True Fashionista party. After she’s designed your house and wardrobe, that is.
Iris is such the icon that in 2005, pieces from her personal clothing and accessories collection went on a months-long display at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in an exhibition entitled “Rara Avis (Rare Bird): The Irreverent Iris Apfel”. In the accompanying press release, the Museum remarked, “With remarkable panache and discernment, she combines colors, textures, and patterns without regard to period, provenance, and, ultimately, aesthetic conventions. Paradoxically, her richly layered combinations – even at their most extreme and baroque – project a boldly graphic modernity.” Read more about it in her book Rare Bird of Fashion: the irreverent Iris Apfel.
Born in Astoria, Queens, Iris studied art history at New York University and attended art school at the University of Wisconsin. She worked for Women’s Wear Daily and as assistant to interior designer Elinor Johnson as a young woman before marrying Carl Apfel in 1948. Together they launched Old World Weavers and ran it until they retired in 1992. (Wikipedia)
Iris has and continues to set her own course, as she says in the film, “People keep interviewing me and they keep asking me about all these rules. And I say I don’t have any rules or I would be breaking them, so it’s a waste of time.” She’s so darn quotable, this lady! “I go at it full, I’m very passionate about what I do. I put my heart and soul (into things) and it feeds me. I push myself until I can’t anymore and then come back again for more. I’m a glutton for punishment,” Iris once told CNN Style.
Her nephew Billy shares that Iris once told him what to say in case someone asked who she was and if she were dead. She instructed him to inform them that she’s very much alive and just walking around to save on funeral expenses. A True Fashionista, that one!