Do you know who that AMAZING 90-year-old woman is to the left? She’s none other than Iris Apfel–interior designer, textile expert, White House design consultant, and self-described “geriatric starlet!” She is also my number one style icon for when I get white haired and [more] bossy.
Every so often I feel like I want to buy really outrageous items and wear them all at once. This is basically Mrs. Apfel’s approach and has been since forever. She’s a wiz with pattern, texture, and color, which has given her cult status among fashion designers, the style obsessed, textile designers, and interior decorators for decades. What I love best about her–apart from the fact that she’s quite the fire cracker (she once said that if anyone says she’s dead, tell them: “No, she’s very much alive and just walking around to save funeral expenses”)–is that she doesn’t really care about being a collector. It’s not about status, it’s about a love for the object.
Apfel once met a collector in the Midwest who has 15,000 pieces in her couture collection. When she showed Apfel her “divine Geoffrey Beene dress,” Apfel said, “Oh my God, you must have had so much fun wearing it!” The woman replied, “Wear it!? This is part of my collection. You don’t wear your collection!” To which Apfel responded, “In that case I don’t have a collection.”
She has a staggeringly extensive jewelry collection, some of which is “junk” and some of which is priceless. But ALL of which demonstrates her deep love of bringing “glamour and fantasy” into the world. At any given time she can be found wearing a Geoffrey Beene work of genius, or a necklace made out of weird plastic toys and old candy wrappers, or some combination of both.
Look at her! She’s like a hoarder’s dream if hoarders had actual taste and passion instead of a crippling obsession! Iris Apfel also won’t pay more than $15 for any pair of jeans–it’s the textile expert in her–and she loves shopping for bargains. She’ll go into thrift stores and buy things that call out to her. She won’t even bother trying her finds on because she figures, “what the hell; if they don’t fit, I’ll just make pillows out of them.” Hence, many of the pillows pictured above. Double hence, why I want to be her when I’m 90 and also right now.
She’s been married to her husband Carl, who is also a stylish devil, since the 50s. Here they are, putting all of us to shame:
At this point, I’m so excited I’m just going to throw a bunch of random pictures up for you to look through. I I I I R R R I I I S S S! ! !
The best thing about Iris is that she knows how to be dramatic without looking like a carnival attraction, or at least maybe she’s able to look like a really great looking carnival attraction. One that you would want to not throw up funnel cake all over. Very few people know how to be dramatic well and if anyone has ever proven beyond a doubt that dramatic fashion sensibility is an art form, it’s Iris. Her visual knowledge of pattern, color, and line are mind boggling. This skill is most easily illustrated when you place her in a group of boring young people who are trying really hard, but not succeeding at ALL.
Iris and her “collection” became SO impressive and inspiring that the Met did a whole exhibit of [some] of what lives in her closets.
If I had a tiger, I would totally make it wear giant glasses. Well played, The Met, well played.
Finally, one of the most interesting things about Iris is that you really can’t find pictures of her as a young woman. She rose to cult fame as a senior citizen. THAT means that if you’re someone who really wants to achieve cult status in your lifetime, you should hang in there until you’re like 80. But you should be thrifting your ass off in your 20s and 30s and various other decades that come before 80.