Iris Apfel, 102-Year-Old: The Fashion Icon of the Century

The lady with big, black-rimmed glasses, bright red lipstick, short white hair, excessive beaded jewellery, bold statement pieces, eye-catching outfits, and haute couture. She’s a one-of-a-kind fashion icon who has a global following for her decorated looks and original styles. Iris Apfel has been a style icon, a fashion maximalist, and an extraordinary inspiration in the world of glitz and glamour.

From the leading actors in Hollywood to the global editors of prestigious fashion magazines, Iris was an absolute legendary style icon to all. As she passes away at the age of 102 years old, this article is an ode to one of the most prominent style legends of the century. Remembering her most iconic style quotes, covers, partnerships, and her overall journey.

The iconic designer Donna Karen of DKNY and a friend to Iris remembers her as “Iris Apfel had a passion for fashion like no other person, If I’d have to name who the best-dressed woman in the world is, it would be Iris. From head to toe with colour, jewellery, and the most beautiful little details, no one understood style like she did. She inspired me to do colour and more colour instead of my usual black and white!’’

Beginning of Iris Apfel

In 1950, Apfel founded her international textile manufacturing brand called Old World Weavers with her late husband, Carl Apfel. She was an expert in textiles and fabrics. They sourced fabrics by travelling the world together collecting rare antique fabrics for interior design. Together visiting the European flea markets leading them to carve their niche for luxe fabrics like brocades, lampas, geometric motifs, suzani, ikat patterns, silks, and more.

Her prominent projects included works for six different US presidents and celebrity clients like Greta Garbo and Estee Lauder.

Despite being a well-known figure in the fashion circuit, Iris Apfel achieved global recognition at the age of 84 years old. She enjoyed fame in her later years of life with an exhibit in 2005 Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in New York. They hosted a show called ‘Rara Avis’ which is Latin for rare bird. The museum described her style as “both witty and exuberantly idiosyncratic.”

“Fashion really is women’s liberation in a lot of ways.” -Iris Apfel

Iris Apfel Style

“You can easily buy your way into being fashionable. Style, I think is in your DNA. It implies originality and courage.” – Iris Apfel

Iris was what we can call an original and inspired fashion thrifter. She had mentioned many times in her interviews that her jewellery collection started in her childhood when she visited antique shops in Greenwich Village. She carried a maximalist vibe in her style mixing the highs of fashion with the very basics. For instance, a Dior haute couture paired with flea market finds or a 19th-century embroidered vest with Dolce & Gabbana animal print trousers.

Her style was focused on layering her outfits, offering a sense of mystery and aesthetic conventions. Bold, modern, eccentric, and vibrant are keywords in her style. Her social media profile bio matched her style rather aptly. Her Instagram profile bio reads “More is more & less is a bore,” which is currently followed by 3 million users.

“I’m not pretty, and I’ll never be pretty, but it doesn’t matter,” she once quoted, adding further… “I have something much better. I have style.” – Iris Apfel

Iris Apfel Partnerships

“I call myself a geriatric starlet.” -Iris Apfel

1. Iris x MAC, 2011

It’s called the Iris Apfel for MAC collection launched in 2011 with 20 products. Including lipsticks, lip pencils, brow pencils, eye pencils, beauty powder, nail colours, and more. The collaboration highlighted her iconic choice of bold colours like red lips, red nails, and thick eyeliners.

2. Iris x Kate Spade, 2018

The unique partnership featured a limited-edition collection that amalgamated Kate’s typical playful patterns with Iris Apfel signature bold style. Products like handbags, accessories, and clothing were part of the limited-edition series.

3. Iris x H&M, 2022

As Iris turned a century old, H&M partnered with her to celebrate her unique style. Co-designing a collection that allows her fans to dive into the eccentric world of the global style icon. The collection encouraged people to embrace their unique style and find their inner Iris. With quirky prints, bold colours, and extravagant accessories, this collection was an immediate success and sold out in days.

4. Iris x Ruggable, 2023

Unapologetic. Daring. Iconic. The keywords used by the partnership reflect Iris’s style and how. Ruggable partnered with Iris to create a collection of 15 washable rugs and 5 washable doormats. Inviting people to explore their style, challenging traditional trends. The collection is vibrant, joyful, fun, and packed with colours.

Ruggabel shares that – When it comes to designing a room, though, Iris had one piece of sage advice: “You start with the rug,” Iris explains. “The rug is pregnant with possibilities—you can do so many different things. That’s the logical place to start.”

Iris Apfel Fame

“When you don’t dress like everybody else, you don’t have to think like everybody else.” -Iris Apfel

Iris’s fame has gotten her to many new and much-deserved global platforms. From being part of books, dolls, and magazine covers to OTT platforms. Here are some of her notable achievements that gave her more fame:

a. Iris is known to often label herself as an ‘accidental icon’ that also became the title of her successful memoir in 2018.
b. Post the successful exhibit in 2005 at the MET, the exhibit inspired a coffee-table book aptly titled the ‘Rare Bird of Fashion: The Irreverent Iris Apfel’.
c. In homage to her exhibit and the coffee table book, Iris launched her fashion line coined as ‘Rara Avis by Iris Apfel’
d. In 2014, her extraordinary and flamboyant style became the context of a documentary series titled ‘Iris’. Aired on Netflix directed by the late Albert Maysles. The documentary was nominated for Emmy Awards in 2017. The documentary was an iconic hit that delighted her as it became the last project she and her husband worked on together before he passed away.
e. She modelled for Vogue in 2018 and in 2019 she became the oldest woman in history to sign a modelling contract with IMG.
f. In 2018, Mattel honoured Iris with a Barbie in her likelihood for International Women’s Day. She became the oldest individual to inspire a Barbie doll.

There are many odes to Apfel in our modern world. Ones like a Barbie in her likeness, T-shirts in her icon look, glasses her fans spot, artwork, and dolls. Reflecting to us how greatly adored she was. A true visionary who embodied vivaciousness and offered the world a kaleidoscope of colours to embrace. Her Instagram profile describes herself as ‘the world’s oldest living teenager’ who today leaves a legacy of embracing our true style and believing in the power of fashion.

“I think you have to be true to yourself, know yourself, and not be a trend follower. You’ve got to take a few risks.” – Iris Apfel

Author: Admin