Iris Apfel, In Full Bloom
“Life is gray and dull,” declares Iris Apfel. “You might as well have a little fun when you dress and amuse people.”
And what fun the 93-year-old New Yorker seems to be having.
A bona fide fashion icon known for her wildly colourful style of bold prints, stacks of bracelets and ropes of necklaces – always punctuated with her Mr. Magoo-round eyewear – she has been the subject of an exhibition at the MET, the inspiration for the windows at Bergdorf Goodman, starred in a M.A.C makeup campaign and, most recently, as the face of Kate Spade.
Now comes Iris, a documentary released in theatres in May, directed by the late Albert Maysles, which chronicles the doyenne’s life. Apfel’s magpie eye for details and sense of colour and style was evident way back in the 1950s when she and her husband, Carl, started a textile company and were hired by several first ladies, including Jackie Kennedy, for fabric restorations at the White House.
But it was in the past few years that fashionistas discovered her idiosyncratic style – a surprising notion, considering that the fashion world worships at the altar of youth.
“My husband and I sit and laugh about it because I’m not doing anything different from 70 years ago,” she says on the phone from New York recently. “I don’t know if people caught up with me, or they see that it’s possible to look different and not look like a freak or a crazy rebel or whether they are beginning to have an appreciation of age.”
Whatever the fascination, Apfel’s persona has provided a powerful influence on the industry. Now there is a wave of senior supermodels dominating ad campaigns – from Joni Mitchell for Saint Laurent to Joan Didion for Céline.
But, while the documentary has captured Apfel’s passion for both couture and flea market finds and her encounters with various celebrities, it also highlights an undercurrent through the film – a love story. Apfel’s loving relationship with her husband, who turned 100 during filming, was one that was touching and poignant.
It also reinforces what’s really important to her. “Having high style is not the most important thing in the world,” she says. “It’s much better in my view to be happy than well-dressed.”
This summer, take inspiration from Iris Apfel with a few statement pieces (clockwise from top right):
Bold print pants, Fendi, Holt Renfrew; floral flats, Ivanka Trump, Hudson’s Bay; over-sized sunglasses, Prada, Holt Renfrew; floral print jacket, Melanie Lyne; necklace, J. Crew