Style Icon: Iris Apfel

It’s not every day that we pay homage to a 91-year old self confessed ‘geriatric starlet’, but if you’re exploring the wonders of a style icon, it’s hard to ignore Iris Apfel.

Born in 1921, this collector, interior designer, artist and general socialite has had a full lifetime to focus her style into something definitive, and what she has discovered is fascinating. Rather than worrying about trends and seasons, Apfel looks for colours, textures and crazy prints that will provide timeless inspiration.

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Maybe one of the reasons she has such a fearless attitude towards style is the fact that she is a New Yorker, born and bred. Having grown up during a time when there were no high-rise buildings, and moved to Manhattan after her marriage to Carl Apfel, she says she admires but doesn’t love the other fashion capitals; Paris, Milan and London.

After studying Art History in her beloved city and training to become a teacher, she flitted between various career choices. She worked, briefly, for WWD, but soon realised that career progression was hardly an option, and so worked as an assistant for a prominent illustrator. During these years, she was beginning to collect her now famous wardrobe of amazing finds, and thrift store bargains. Her mother had owned a boutique during her childhood, and had fuelled a lifelong passion for huge statement costume jewellery.

Iris Apfel, 2009 Photo © Peabody Essex Museum

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Her marriage provided a brilliant springboard for a business launch, and the Apfel duo founded Old World Textiles, a company which provided high quality and forgotten materials. Through this, the Apfels worked on the interior renovation and redesign of many prominent American landmarks, including The White House for an impressive nine presidents.

In 1992, both Apfels retired after decades of success, but no children. Both of them thought that settling into their apartment and occasionally popping to parties was all that they had left, but neither of them were prepared for the insane fame that would be thrust upon them by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The gallery proposed an exhibition of her notable style in 2005, and after weeks of searching through her creative and cluttered closet, they found some real gems. The show was such a roaring success, and had so many responses and 5 star reviews that it was commissioned to travel all around the world. Since then, Apfel has never been busier, and has never looked back.

2011 CFDA Fashion Awards - Cocktails

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2008 Lighthouse International Light Years Gala

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Having almost a century to define her style, it’s not easy to emulate. However, there is a simple formula to stick to – which is to love what you wear, and to wear what you love. Source

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4 thoughts on “Style Icon: Iris Apfel

  1. Pingback: Happy Birthday Iris Apfel | waldina

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