Discovering Iris Apfel

picture shows red lipstick. Photo by Polly Alexandra

Iris Apfel is testament to age is only a number

Defying someone by age alone is not always to be encouraged, but when you are as cool as Iris Apfel at 97 years old, it’s becomes a big deal for the right reasons. In an age and beauty-obsessed culture, Apfel is helping to challenge the norm. She has become an icon thanks to her trademark glasses, red lips, cropped-hair and fabulous clothing. So here are five things to know about Iris Apfel:

She has signed a modelling contract

This year. With IMG. But having been the face of a number of big brands including in a Citroen and Blue Illusion, it’s a little surprising that this has only happened now. In 2018 she published a book entitled Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon which is a series of musings on he life and style.

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Iris Apfel loves fabrics

Iris Apfel has no brothers and sisters and, growing up as an only child, her parents often brought her to family events. To entertain Apfel, her grandmother let her play with fabric scraps.

‘She opened one bag, and then another, and what I saw made my eyes pop: a gigantic bunch of little fabric remnants in all sorts of colours and patterns — there were scraps of all kinds, of all shapes and sizes … Obsessed with texture, colour, and pattern, I spent whole evenings entertaining myself this way. Looking back, it’s very clear playing this way honed by eye and gave me a very deep interest in fabric.’

Iris Apfel, Accidental Icon

She is also an interior designer

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On 22 Feb, 1948, she married Carl Apfel (4 Aug, 1914 – 1 Aug, 2015). Two years later, they launched a textile company called Old World Weavers and ran it until they retired in 1992. From 1950 to 1992, Iris Apfel took part in several design restoration projects, including work at the White House for nine presidents: Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton.

Through their business, the couple began traveling all over the world where Iris Apfel began buying pieces of non-Western, artisanal clothes. She wore these clothes to clients’ parties.

Mattel has made a Barbie version of her


Iris Apfel’s break came later on

Apfel is recognised for for her eclectic style; layering bright colours and jewellery. She was the subject of an exhibit at The Costume Institute in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2005 when she was 84.

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‘My first big job in beauty and fashion came when I was at the tender age of ninety,’ says Apfel in her book. In 2011 she developed a limited edition collection of make-up for MAC cosmetics.

‘I’m the oldest living broad that ever graced a major cosmetics campaign.’

Words by Emily B

Main Photo by Polly Alexandra

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