Fashion Heroes : Iris Apfel


At 93, Iris Apfel is probably the oldest fashion icon of today. 

The American businesswoman and interior designer became a leading ambassador for fashion by chance at a very late age. Almost a decade ago, the Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City premiered an exhibition on her eclectic style entitled Rara Avis (Rare Bird): The Irreverent Iris Apfel. It was then that Apfel became widely known.

Vanity Fair once wrote that without Apfel, whose idiosyncratic style and Mr. Magoo-sized eyewear inspired a 2005 exhibition at the Met, the world would likely not be seeing the rise of the senior supermodels such as Joan Didion for Céline, Charlotte Rampling for Nars, Jessica Lange for Marc Jacobs Beauty and Joni Mitchell for Yves Saint Laurent. 

Which is probably why the New York style icon has a documentary about her life and her distinct sense of style. Called Iris, the documentary which was released in the US in April, is the final work of the late, great documentary maker Albert Maysles. 

In Iris, the icon, who gets recognised on the street and trailed by fashion bloggers, mingles with fashion's glitterati, which includes Bruce Weber, Jenna Lyons, and Kanye West. It is also an inside look at how she is dealing with old age, done in an intimate Q&A style within the confines of her Park Avenue apartment. 



- Years before the Met exhibition of her entire wardrobe, her sense of style had earned her a quiet following among the arbiters of taste. She was known for her flamboyant dressing and liberal use of accessories: stacks of colourful bangles and layers of necklaces adorn her equally eclectic ensembles. 

- In 1950, Apfel and her husband, Carl, first came to prominence in the 1950s, when she and her husband, Carl—who turned 100 during filming—founded Old World Weavers, a textile company hired by nine presidents for White House restorations.

- Ralph Lauren based a 2006 collection on upholstery fabrics as a tribute to Apfel's work as a textile designer.

- Two years ago, M.A.C cosmetics launched a range of kaleidoscopic colour palettes based on her penchant for bright and bold colours. This year, Apfel is also the new face of Kate Spade, alongside American top model Karlie Kloss. 

- In the documentary, Apfel recalled how Frieda Loehmann, founder of the famed department store, took her aside and told her something she will never forget - "You're not pretty and you'll never be pretty, but it doesn't matter. You have something much better. You have style". 


According to the documentary's official website, IRIS portrays a singular woman whose enthusiasm for fashion, art and people are life's sustenance and reminds us that dressing, and indeed life, is nothing but an experiment.

Despite the abundance of glamour in her current life, she continues to embrace the values and work ethic established during a middle-class Queens upbringing during the Great Depression. "I feel lucky to be working. If you're lucky enough to do something you love, everything else follows." 

Read more here and watch the trailer below.