One glance at Iris Apfel and you can see why her aesthetic might appeal to a bunch of style renegades like ourselves, who believe in breaking the “rules” and forging the frontiers of fashion.
For starters, she ascribes to an attitude we share, that “more is more, less is a bore”. (While often attributed to her, the phrase actually originated with architect Robert Venturi, but I think we can all agree that Iris Apfel is the living, breathing embodiment of it.) Color, volume, baubles – all of it. Pile. It. On.
But she doesn’t just break the conventional rules of fashion, Iris has broken barriers and shattered the systemic ideal that one must age out of the industry by 30. She has an invigorating approach to aging and she has solidified the notion that style knows no age, signing with international modeling agency IMG at the spry young age of 97.
The bold-and-brightly-clad beauty just celebrated her 100th birthday last fall (August 29th, if you’re into astrology) and has accumulated an expansive assortment of accolades and one-of-a-kind experiences. Once a youthful copywriter at Women’s Wear Daily, earning a mere $15 per week, Iris has always lived a mantra of “If something excites you, go for it” which undoubtedly led her to role in the White House coordinating textiles and design from Truman to Clinton. According to a 2015 article in The Guardian, “she found the White House contract to be among the easiest of [her] clients, as they generally wanted only to replicate what had previously been in place. The one exception, Apfel said, was Jacqueline Kennedy. Apfel recalled: ‘She employed a very famous Parisian designer to gussy up the house and make it a real Frenchie, and the design community went bananas. After that we had to throw it all out and start again. But I did like Mrs. Nixon. She was lovely.’” Tell it like it is, Iris!
And speaking of houses of prestige, Iris has also been featured in her own exhibit at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
As lifelong Barbie enthusiasts (especially Cheryl), you know we adore the fact that she has her own Barbie, created in 2018, making her the oldest woman to ever had one made in her likeness.
Having such a vibrance of wardrobe and a vivaciousness of temperament, it’s easy to be in awe of and place emphasis on all she’s accomplished “at her age”, but it turns out we obsess about it much more than Iris does. In her “10 Life Lessons” article with CNBC, first on the list was “Don’t obsess over your age. I never think about my age, maybe that’s the ticket. I never think about it – it’s a passing thought. It’s just a number…” adding, “You start falling apart, but you just have to buck up and paste yourself back together.” (If you’re interested in the rest of Iris’ life lessons, they’re definitely worth the read.) If you find this colorful character as endlessly fascinating as we do, you can delve more into her century of style and success with the Albert Maysles’ 2014 documentary, Iris, and/or her 2018 biography, Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon.