Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Style Icon: Iris Apfel

We all know her for her massive black-rimmed glasses and her larger-than-life wardrobe, but what I admire most about Iris is her personality and outlook on life.  Still active in the fashion and beauty industries at the age of 94, Iris most recently launched a line of chic tech-wearables and also starred in Kate Spade's spring 2015 campaign alongside Karly Kloss.  She's an active participant in New York and Paris fashion week and works closely with the fashion department at the University of Texas as a visiting professor.  

If you haven't seen Albert Maysle's documentary on Iris, I highly recommend it.  Released in 2015, the film gave us an in-depth look at the style icon and how she became the celebrated fashionista she is today.  Born and raised in Queens, Iris was only a young woman working for Frieda Loehmann (owner of the famed department store Loehmann's) when Frieda pulled her aside and said, "Young lady, I've been watching you.  You're not pretty, and you'll never be pretty, but it doesn't matter.  You have something even better- style."

Iris went on to work for Women's Wear Daily and for interior designer Elinor Johnson.  But it wasn't until she married Carl Apfel in 1948 and they began traveling that her wardrobe became exceedingly eccentric.

In 1950, Iris, along with her new husband Carl Apfel, launched the textile line Old World Weavers. With an interior design business already established, Carl and Iris were making frequent trips to African bazaars and European flea markets sourcing furniture and fabrics for some of America's finest houses- like the White House!  Iris worked with 9 of the First Ladies  (Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton)  to design and update the White House to their individual likings.  After years of success, Carl and Iris sold Old World Weavers to Stark, who continues to represent the fabric line today.

As I said above, for all that Iris has accomplished, what I love most is her sense of self and incredible wit.  She knows who she is, she's living an exciting, full life, and she isn't influenced by the norms of society.   Here are a few of my favorite Iris quotes:

"To lead the good life in New York, the two most important things for a woman are a chauffeur and a fur-lined raincoat."

"You learn as you grow up, if you're intelligent - or even three-quarter witted - that there's no free lunch. You pay for things in various ways. Living, loving, everything else is a matter of the same principles: you learn to work with what you have."

"Great personal style is an extreme curiosity about yourself."

"When you don't dress like everybody else, you don't have to think like everybody else."

"Aging gracefully is about no heavy makeup, and not too much powder because it gets into the wrinkles, and, you know, to not get turtle eyelids and to not try to look young."

"I didn't have children, but I never wanted children."
"Coco Chanel once said that what makes a woman look old is trying desperately to look young. Why should one be ashamed to be 84? Why do you have to say that you're 52? Nobody's going to believe you anyway, so why be such a fool? It's nice that you got to be so old. It's a blessing."

"Fashion really is women's liberation in a lot of ways. Look at how many women in this country are depressed about how they look and how they think they have to look! It's really sad. And it's not about money."

And my favorite Iris quote of all:  "If you're not interested, you're not interesting."

Iris's active lifestyle and continued partnerships with big brands like MAC and Kate Spade have set the stage for the new senior supermodel:  Joan Didion for Celine, Charlotte Rampling for NARS, Jessica Lange for Marc Jacobs Beauty, and Joni Mitchell for Saint Laurent

 Could it be that maybe we as a culture are slowly moving away from glorifying youth as the epitome of beauty?  Who knows, but if anyone can start that movement, it's Iris.  You go, girl.


  1. She's just SO fabulous! Wonderful photo round up!

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