After a lifetime of wearing clothes in her own flamboyant manner, at 90, Iris Apfel is delighted to find herself New York’s latest fashion muse. If you have never heard of Iris, you can be sure that you will be seeing more of her in the upcoming months.
Iris Apfel was 83, and 13 years into her retirement, when she became a celebrity. In 2005, the Metropolitan Museum in New York held an exhibition of her wardrobe. This included some exquisite pieces by rare Paris and New York designers. Some of these pieces included a coat of multicolored rooster, duck and fowl feathers by Jean-Louis Scherrer from 1962, and an orange jumpsuit by Geoffrey Beene from the early 80s. The show was a word-of-mouth success that sprung her into the limelight of the fashion scene. Since then she has taken the fashion world by storm. Her looks are now so legendary, so other worldly, that what Iris wears or says at the age of 91 now sets the trend for others to follow and admire.
Her collection of clothes and shoes all started while traveling the world with her husband, Carl, during the 1950s through the 1970s for their former textile and design company Old World Weavers. Iris not only shopped the finest boutiques but often commissioned her own shoes and clothes. “I had access to all these fabulous fabrics,” she recalled. “When I had a dress made, I had shoes made to go with it.” It was at this time that she really began to appreciate the handmade artisan quality that she has grown to love. Working with local cobblers, she created many of her must-have styles. “When people were going to parties after-hours, I used to go to a cobbler’s little workroom,” Apfel said, noting that sometimes even the shoemaker wasn’t sure how to fulfill her requests. “It’s the process I enjoy so much more than even wearing it,” she said.
Iris finds this time in her life filled with exciting opportunities, such as creating a range of Iris Apfel colors for Mac Cosmetics. She has also attended numerous catwalk shows including being a guest of honor at designer Joanna Mastroianni show billed as being inspired by Apfel’s style. Most recently, Iris has stared along with Anna Wintour, in the documentary Bill Cunningham New York, having been a regular in Cunningham’s photos for several decades. She is also set to be the subject of her own documentary by Grey Gardens film-maker Albert Maysles.
Iris is truly an inspiration in the fashion world as she takes risks with her style. Her appreciation for handmade pieces will hopefully help shine some more light on the smaller designers and ateliers who have had the chance to create beautiful pieces for her.