Iris Apfel – Rara Avis and Empress of Style

Iris Apfel – Rara Avis and Empress of Style

Iris Apfel – Rara Avis and Empress of Style

Exuberant, flamboyant, extravagant and high-spirited are some of the many adjectives used to describe Iris Apfel and her sense of style over the years. Although, placing any type of label seems wrong as the most fitting way to put it, is simply to say she is anything but conventional. Considering that Iris Apfel has been a fix component of the New Yorker fashion scene for over seventy years, it is remarkable to see how her popularity at the tender age of ninety-three seems to come to no end. She is not only the subject of Albert Maysles’ latest documentary Iris – which will be released later this month – but also currently the face of Kate Spade’s new campaign. Jewellery designer Alexis Bitter also tapped the style icon to star in his Spring/Summer 2015 campaign alongside Tavi Gevinson. Both proving that age is just a number and that style most certainly has nothing to do with it.


The recent interest in her persona and her life is baffling to her as she reveals in an interview with the New York Times Magazine, ‘It seems insane to me. I’m doing nothing different than what I’ve done for the last 70-odd years. Maybe I was ahead of the game, and people caught up with me. There aren’t too many 93-year-old cover girls around.’ Speaking of covers, Iris’ most memorable one is without a doubt the Dazed&Cofused cover of their November issue in 2012, wearing Comme des Garçons like no other 93-year-old could.


After co-funding the textile company Old World Weavers in 1950 with her husband Carl, Apfel spend six decades in the world of home furnishing. As a business woman and leading interior designer she went on to use herself as a canvas to express and compose her very own vision of style. With her razor-sharp wit and her beautifully unique and eccentric aesthetic, she has been an inspiration to many over the last seventy years. But it is worth mentioning that her unconventional approach to style and her reaffirming attitude have never been about being different but about accepting and embracing individualism. ‘The worst fashion faux-pas is looking in the mirror and seeing somebody else,’ she states in an interview with Dazed&Confused. ‘You have to know who you are and what you can carry off. And learning who you are is not easy, so you have to work at it. Because you’re never going to be elegant or stylish mimicking somebody else. You might be fashionable, but fashion and style are two very different things.’

Many admire her unshakeable confidence and eccentric mantra ‘more is more and less is bore’. Especially in times where Céline has not only become one of the most popular and successful brands of the 21st century but has also become a lifestyle many live up to religiously. As a silent counterforce to the widely popular Céline-ism, Iris Apfel offers us flamboyant style inspiration with more years of experience on her back than the minimalistic Parisian label itself. Instead of uniformity she inspires sartorial diversity in all it’s forms, shapes, prints and colours.


But her influence today goes beyond style. The rise of the mature supermodel would be unthinkable without Iris Apfel as fashion’s current muse. From Joni Mitchell for Yves Saint Laurent to Joan Didion for Céline, and of course, Iris herself for Kate Spade and Alexis Bitter. To our youth-obsessed society and media that advertises fashion for adult women worn by underaged models, this anti-movement delivers a strong message, slowly but surely changing the way women see themselves. ‘What I do seems to makes them (women) feel better about themselves and improves the way they think about themselves and they think about the world and I think that’s very important. I think you have to think positively and not curl up in a ball because you’re ageing.’, she explains during a conversation with Ari Seth Cohen, founder of Advanced Style.

The 93-year-old style icon is clearly no shrinking violet and is so, positively redefining our attitude towards age as well as our attitude towards what personal style truly means. Idiosyncratic rare birds like Iris are those who change the way we perceive the world and encourage us not only to think sartorially outside the box but also motivate us to go further into creating our own embellished leopard printed box. In her own words, ‘It’s better to be happy than well dressed.’



Written by Valentina Egoavil Medina

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