Iris Apfel: The Woman Who Inspired Generations
Iris Apfel inspired generations with her philosophy of finding your own uniqueness and flaunting it for the world to see. With a daily schedule of a thirty-year old, the lady with the owl-eyed spectacle shows no sign of stopping. At the age of ninety-five, the world knows this fashion icon as the face of Wisewear and also as the co-founder of the Old World Weavers – a company established in 1950 that focuses their expertise in restoration furnishing.
Iris Apfel as an Interior Designer
Starting her career as an interior designer at a young age, she with her husband Carl Apfel, founded the Old World Weaver two years after their marriage. They took over various restoration projects from several high profile clients including the White House during the administration of nine Presidents until their retirement in 1992. The job required them to frequent across Europe and North Africa to source vintage, antique and furniture fabrics for their clientele in America.
How Iris became famous?
During that period, even though their service was famous among the high profile clients, they did not really catch up with the fame maybe because of the absence of social media back then. But it was at the age of eight-five that she really became famous. A call from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute’s curator, Harold Koda, changed it all. In one of their exhibition called “Rara Avis”, they featured Iris’ diverse collection of jewelry and clothing. The exhibition was different from the usual because of the way Iris had dressed up the mannequins and also the fact that it was the only exhibition that was based on a living female who was not a designer. It brought her back to the limelight by re-introducing a glimpse of her style to the generation.
Dynamic exhibitions of Iris
This incident evidently revived her career, and she has been conducting exhibitions ever since. With an eclectic wardrobe and the dynamic way of putting all her collection together, she has been able to inspire and gather a fan base for herself. Ten years from that gracious exhibition, she has not looked back, and her career has been on the rise. In 2015, she was the face for the exhibitions of Kate Spade and Alexis Bittar – a jewelry designer. The former was alongside Victoria’s Secret model Karlie Kloss and the latter with blogger Tavi Gevinson.
One of her latest exhibition at Le Bon Marche in Paris featured ten of her quirky signature looks. A typical day in her life consists of visits to friends all across New York and meetings for forthcoming projects. Even at this age, the woman is so full of energy and exuberates creativity inspiring everyone around her to make use of their ideas and follow their passion.
Iris Apfel was born on the 29th of August 1921, in New York to Samuel Barrel and Sadye, a glass-and-mirror business man, and a fashion boutique owner, respectively. At New York University, she studied art history and did attend the art school of the University of Wisconsin. Her first job was for Elinor Johnson, the interior designer, and for Women’s Wear Daily.
The love for fashion embedded in her since childhood. Even though she never considered herself pretty, she knew it is not “the looks” that matters. She believes that it is something that you develop, something that you learn over the course of time that makes all the difference. She got married to Carl Apfel in 1948 and started the Old World Weavers with her husband at the age of twenty-nine.
During the travels abroad to collect the furniture and items for the purpose of interior designing, she found out her love for traditional and local clothing and accessories. As a self-proclaimed “fabric freak”, she blended in her personality to the color and styles of the fabrics giving them an identity of their own. The blending of her dry sense of humor does not hurt either, as it gives her collection the edge over the rest.
The list of Old World Weaver clientele was the very high profile with the likes of actress Greta Garbo to Presidents from Truman and Kennedy to Nixon. As per the words of Iris herself, the job at White House was comparatively easy, and she liked working especially with Mrs. Nixon. The thirty-two years of experience helped Iris to shape her style and personality, and by the time they retired in 1992, she thought she had seen it all. But no, the best part was yet to come.
“If you make a mistake in what you put together, the fashion police are not going to haul you into jail.” – Iris Apfel
Iris- Positive attitude towards fashion and style
Iris Apfel believes that you do not have to worry about what others think about your style. You put together things the way you like and if you find that it suits you, then you do not need anyone’s approval. Iris is mostly seen sporting heavy jewelry pieces from the Native American collection and clothing which are put together in a way we might not find relevant. Here New York City apartment also gives the same vibe. She has dressed up her apartment the same way she does.
She describes her way of dressing to be similar to jazz music; it is all about improvising. You are not sure how it might come out. But when it does, you know it is going to be something special. She also believes that attitude is what makes you fashionable. Even if you have the best designer clothes and accessories, but you lack the attitude, then it is not worth it. The right attitude is what provides the edge.
Iris in her nineties
The bold and fierce fashion icon found her way back in her eighties, and that is one of the biggest takeaways. All she did was follow her dreams and do what she did the best. The results are right in front of us. She, a woman in her nineties, designs clothes and accessories to be worn by the present generation. She smashed age barriers proving there is no such thing as “too old” to do something. It is like what Iris once said, “I don’t expect to find inspiration. It is just sort of comes. Sometimes you step on a bug, and you get inspired.”