Iris Apfel started her fashion career at 83 when the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute presented an exhibition of her personal collection of clothes and accessories. Not only was the exhibition styled exclusively by Apfel, but it also became a runaway success and travelled to 3 other museums – not bad for a last-minute replacement.
Captivatingly rude, brilliantly abrupt, with a sense of style that is all hers, Iris embodies the nonagenarian we all want to be when we grow up. With a background in interior design, Iris and her husband Carl began the textile company Old World Weavers in 1950. Specialising in restoration furnishings, Iris utilised her savvy thrifting skills to source the necessary fabrics and curiosities.
As well as working on projects in the United States (they served nine different presidents in redecorating the White House) Iris and Carl travelled to Europe twice a year to source products. The opportunity to extend her wardrobe with finds from the souks, bazaars and markets of Europe and Asia allowed Iris to further develop her unique style.
Now, at 95, Iris has moved into fashion. In the past year she has been the face of two campaigns: one for Kate Spade with Karlie Kloss and the other for jewellery designer Alexis Bittar with blogger Tavi Gevinson. She has also collaborated with US company WiseWear to create gorgeous, 18 carat gold fitbits for the fashion set. She is also the star of Iris, a documentary covering a 3 year period filmed and directed by the late Albert Maysles (it is well worth a watch, check the trailer here)
According to Iris, great personal style is about knowing yourself, staying curious and maintaining a sense of humour. These three aspect can easily be applied to your whole outlook on life, and when in doubt, WWID (What Would Iris Do). In case you are in doubt, here are a few life lessons, straight from the old girl herself.
If you like something, buy it
It has to jump out and say something. I like offbeat things; I have very few run-of-the-mill things. I have a lot of pieces that are from other periods that may fit perfectly, but are not the usual thing that you would see. You can’t do houses and have everything you need right at your fingertips, and clients don’t like to wait too long. So whenever I saw unusual things I bought them—in all kinds of crazy places.
If you adore something, are you going to have buyers remorse? Make sure you absolutely love it, then go for it. Buy the shoes, book that holiday, hell, have the doughnut!
Make a statement with your beauty choices
If you make a mistake in what you put together, the fashion police are not going to haul you into jail.
Be bold. Try something new. No one is going to pull you up for being wrong, and if they do, they’re not worth being in your life.
Keep an open mind
I don’t have special places to shop, as you never know what you’re going to find—I always tried to keep an open mind. I could find a treasure in a junk shop or junk in a very elegant emporium.
You never know where you’re going to end up, what is going to happen, or who you will be with. Treat life as an adventure and take what comes, when it comes. After all half the excitement is getting there.
Don’t expect anything from anybody
My father told me once not to expect anything from anybody so I wouldn’t be disappointed. If somebody was nice and did nice things for me I should be overjoyed, but I shouldn’t go through life expecting it, which is very good advice
You aren’t owed anything from anyone. Remembering this can help when the world seems down on you and can help curb your FOMO and envy.
Find your own way
When you don’t dress like everyone else you don’t have to think like everyone else.
What works for someone else might not work for you. Search out new things, formulate your own opinions and educate yourself. Finding your own way in life can be a battle, but that what make it life. Own it, it’s the only one you’ll get.
If you’re not interested, you’re not interesting.
Find a hobby, get involved with an activity or find something you love. People who have interests are infinitely more interesting than those who follow the pack. It could be anything; learn how to woodwork, join a community choir, take up coding, anything! Not only are you expand your own horizons, but you’ll meet new people and discover new things about yourself.
Don’t be afraid of your age
I don’t see anything so wrong with a wrinkle. It’s kind of a badge of courage.
Your age shouldn’t define you; you’re more than a number. Being childish and having a childlike curiosity is different and keeping that excitement about life is important. Ageing isn’t a bad thing, it shows a life well lived.
Go with the basics
If your hair is done properly and you’re wearing good shoes, you can get away with anything.
If everything else is falling apart, this last bit of advice might just save you.