At 94, flamboyant Iris Apfel is the woman who has it all. Over the decades, she’s been an interior designer, businesswoman, college lecturer, MAC cosmetics spokeswoman and all-round fashion star!
Iris Apfel is no stranger to the fashion world – she herself is an icon, and is known for her quirky eclectic dress sense and her signature oversized spectacles.
Iris Apfel’s rise to fame came unexpectedly when the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York exhibited her fascinating wardrobe and spectacular jewellery in 2005. Her apartment on Park Avenue, New York, has several rooms devoted to her clothes, with other items donated to museums and fashion schools. Soon, Iris’ name was on everyone’s lips…
Here, Iris shares five tips about expression, fashion, and how “pretty” does not age well!
- Be yourself, and express this through your clothing
“I don’t have any rules, as I’d only be breaking them, so it would be a waste of time,” she says. Instead, Iris likes to “improvise – like playing jazz” when it comes to putting together an outfit. “People are getting less stylish. There’s so much sameness these days. Getting dressed is the least of my worries. It’s just crazy when people think I spend my life thinking about what to wear. I’m not a silly fashionista.”
- Never underestimate how important accessories are
“My mother worshipped at the altar of the accessory,” she says. Growing up during the Great Depression, she followed her mother’s advice that all you needed was a black dress that you could then either dress up or dress down with clever accessories. She still follows this belief today, usually wearing a “good architectural outfit” – such as black trousers and a black cashmere sweater – which can be transformed with accessories, jewellery in particular. “Diana Vreeland and Coco Chanel both said, ‘Take off one accessory before leaving the house.’ But I say, ‘Put another one on.’”
- The pretty ones lose their looks in later life
“I’m not a pretty person. But I don’t like pretty so I don’t mind.” Iris says that an influential New York department store owner told her in her teens: “You’re not pretty, but you have something that’s better. You have style.” Looks fade and Iris’ advice is to stay curious, keep busy and keep active. “Life should be a challenge.”
- Don’t only follow the money, there’s so much more to life
“Sometimes, when you have less to spend, you are more careful about what you wear,” says Iris. “People today know the price of everything and the value of nothing. I don’t care about the price as long as I like it.” Iris started her jewellery collection aged 11 with something that cost 65 cents. “I still have that piece.” As for clothes, she admires Ralph & Russo and Duro Olowu. She aims for the unusual and is a huge fan of flea markets and foreign souks. “I love vintage – the fabrics are better, the clothes are made better. Clothes today are scandalously priced. As Woody Allen says, ‘I can’t shop retail – it’s against my religion.’”
- Don’t have plastic surgery
She uses bold colours, fabulous jewellery and a vibrant lipstick to transform herself. “Have I had any plastic surgery? No. Some people I know have, and they come out looking like a Picasso.” Take heed.