July 14, 2017 Sue Mowrer

Who’s that girl? Iris Apfel

Julia Child, French Chef icon. Annie Leibovitz, Photography icon. Audrey Hepburn, icon of chic. Iris Apfel, icon of style. 

Wait, Iris Apfel?

Yes, Iris Apfel, Interior designer, collector of couture clothes and costume jewelry and a shining example of how to live life according to your own rules.

The documentary called “Iris” documents her busy life, as she is the subject of fashion layouts, guest lecturing at fashion design school, and selecting many items of her enormous collection to give to museums tour archival. She delights in being called “Manhattan’s Geriatric Starlet.”  

An exhibition of her couture costume jewelry titled “Rara Avis: The Irreverent Iris Apfel” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute drew record crowds. It was hailed as one of the two best collections in America.

She is an endearing, honest woman who believes that “curiosity and enthusiasm were the two great gifts I got at the cradle.” This is evident by the joy she takes every day and is obviously one of the biggest reasons designers and fashionistas alike pay her respect. She also says that she was heavily influenced by her mother, who “worshiped at the altar of the accessory.”

At the documentary’s heart is the love story between her and her husband of 67 years, Carl, who clearly adores his creative and eclectic “child bride.” Their obvious affection is clear as they delight and amuse one another. Together they traveled the world in search of unusual fabrics, clothes, and pieces she used to decorate some of the most discerning homes in America.  Including the White House, but as Iris points out, “They don’t want us to talk about that.”

She clinks and clacks as she walks with arms covered in bangles and layers of necklaces piled on. Clearly, she does not abide by the advice of Coco Chanel, who said that “before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory.” It seems every piece of jewelry she owns is a “statement piece”, whether she bought it from a street vendor for $7 or from a couture designer. She loves dressing for the party more than attending the party itself. And she Is a shopper par excellence, whether it’s flea markets, craft vendor stalls or designer boutiques. 

She likes to mix and match to create her own unique look: A Chinese shaman jacket that she wears paired with skinny pants or bracelets bought in Harlem with an Ungaro jacket, hand-painted Versace coat, Dior, Missoni – her closets are filled with the stuff of fantasy and escapism. 

According to Iris, “life is gray and dull – you might as well have a little fun when you dress." 

Iris is an inspiration: a woman who always maintained her curiosity, her sense of humor and her sense of self. A true iconoclast, who always wore what she liked instead of what fashion dictated was “in.”

In short, “Iris”, like the woman herself, is utterly charming. Available on Netflix streaming or DVD or iTunes. [Photo Credit: VanityFair.com]




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