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Style Never Gets Old – The Iconic Iris Apfel

“I’m a geriatric starlet, my dear, don’t you know,” — Iris Apfel.

For those of you that didn’t know, 90 is the new black. With chic, edgy fashion blogs like Advanced Style showing us older New Yorkers rocking killer style, the kind of personal style that most of us are not even capable of embodying at this stage in our lives, some of us wannabe fashion mavens in the younger set (under 90) are feeling a bit left in the dust.

Iris Apfel, one of today’s most current and unexpected style icons is quite the talk of the town. After the success of her 2005 Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition displaying her vast, eclectic collection of clothing and accessories, Rara Avis (Rare Bird): The Irreverent Iris Apfel, the self proclaimed geriatric starlet’s image and presence has been in high demand.

Since the Met exhibit, Iris has modeled for the 2008 Coach ad campaign, designed a line of jewelry for HSN and for the über-hip Yoox.com, launched a makeup collection for MAC cosmetics, and has been filmed for a documentary by filmmaker Albert Maysles of the critically-acclaimed Grey Gardens.

In addition to those feats, the very busy trendsetter’s presence has been requested as guest of honor for numerous highbrow fashion events in the last year. And although she is retired from her former 9:00-5:00 of co-owning the renowned Old World Weavers textile firm with her husband, she is still constantly on the move, consulting and lecturing across the country on fashion and related topics. We would need a ginseng smoothie and some caffeine pills to keep up with this woman.

Apfel has the kind of personal style that will stop people in the street. She says that her mother “worshipped at the altar of the accessory” and thus she “got the bug.” Iris finds the accessory to be the most important part of her wardrobe—and it would be easy to make this assumption at a quick glance. She is known to often layer chunky, beaded necklaces and stack bangles of all shapes and colors on both arms from wrist to elbow. Her iconic extra-large, round, thick-frame glasses are her signature stamp, making everything she wears that much cooler. Apfel loves ethnic apparel and adornments, and has picked up most of her beloved pieces while traveling across the globe.

A New York native, Iris grew up in Queens, the daughter of two local business owners. Her mother ran a fashion boutique and her father owned a glass and mirror business. Raised in a household with an appreciation for the finer things, Apfel naturally chose a career focused on the arts and design. Studying art and art history in college, her first job out of school was an apprenticeship as a copygirl at Womens Wear Daily for mere $15 a week. She didn’t see much of a chance of moving up the ladder at WWD and found that interior design would be a bit more lucrative. Iris followed in the footsteps of her parents and began her own firm.

After working on several projects, she noticed that she was having a difficult time finding the fabrics she kept imagining for her designs. It was at this point that she and her husband Carl decided to launch the legendary textile firm Old World Weavers. During this time period, she served as the interior decorator for 9 presidents in the White House. (And Carl by the way, is also quite stylish—a couple peas in a pod, these two).

Iris and Carl’s three-bedroom Park Avenue home in Manhattan is a clear reflection of the adventurous, cultured, and elegant life they have built together. Intricate brocade fabrics as well as antique furniture, art and accessories from around the globe fill every square inch of their posh pad. Like all of her garments, every item in her home exudes her personality. As she puts it, “throughout history clothes represented who you were; they are a great vehicle for explaining who you are.” 

It makes us happy to see such an accomplished individual receive so much praise and attention for her looks and style, even so late in her years. As we are currently living in a world that is so youth-obsessed, it’s refreshing to find an inspiration in someone like Iris. We can’t wait to see what this true original does next.

And if you aren’t familiar with Ari Seth Cohen’s Advanced Style blog, we highly recommend you take a look. An Advanced Style documentary which is currently in post-production (and due in theaters soon) features our girl Iris! Please take a momet to watch the trailor below. We are totally digging how whole heartedly Cohen is embracing the fashionable endeavors of New York City’s older set. Enjoy!

Katherine Tyznik.HighStreet.New York

3 Responses to “Style Never Gets Old – The Iconic Iris Apfel”

  1. Carly Sioux says:

    This is EXACTLY what I hope to be like when I grow up. 😉

  2. Darlene says:

    Absolutely inspiring! I happened to come across this lively ‘artsy’ lady on QVC this morning, and couldn’t believe how feisty she is at 90 years ‘young.’ I like the fact she mentioned she’d be 91 in August, and most importantly added, “if God willing.” People need to know that with every breath we take, and with each day of life, it’s all in God’s will.
    I don’t know if I’ll live to see 90 years of life, but seeing Iris on tv this morning was such an inspiring delight. She’s still creating beauty, and still entertaining us with her lively personality, and snazzy fashion statements. God continue to bless you Iris.

  3. MARY says:

    IRIS IS AN INSPIRATION TO WOMAN OF ALL AGES AND WALKS OF LIFE. I AM 60 AND I TRY TO EMMULATE HER WHENEVER I CAN. I HOPE TO BE JUST LIKE HER WHEN I GROW UP. IRIS IS ART. GOD BLESS HER.

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