“I don’t like to give advice. People have to find themselves,” style icon Iris Apfel tells me over the phone from her vacation home in Florida. But at age 93, she’s had such a rich lifetime full of experiences, people always want to know what she thinks about everything. Now that she’s the subject of legendary filmmaker Albert Maysles’ upcoming documentary Iris (out in May), this “rare bird of fashion” is finally giving her fans an intimate glimpse into what makes her tick. Shot over three years, the film covers Apfel’s globe-trotting travels as a fabric designer, her 67-year marriage, and her long career in the fashion industry. “I don’t like to give advice. People have to find themselves.”
Smart, sharp, and chic as ever, Apfel continues to model, design, and archive her vast collection of clothing and decorative items from her home base in N.Y.C. And she eschews trends and fads in favor of self-awareness and self-confidence as the best guides for fashion. “You shouldn’t slavishly read ‘This is in and this is out’ and ‘You have to have this and you have to have that.’” Rather, she says, “If it doesn’t suit you or you don’t like it, you have to be your own person.”
Apfel’s eclectic and always recognizable signature style of large glasses, maximalist outfits, and heaps of accessories led to a solo show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in 2005 (the first of its kind for a living subject). The show’s success made Apfel “an overnight sensation, except my overnight took about 75 years.” Never one to rest on her laurels, she was particularly pleased by the “bevy of new careers” that the exhibit brought her, including a M.A.C. makeup collection, her own HSN line, and modeling gigs. She says she aims to take it all in stride, but admits she can’t help but be amused at “becoming a cover girl at 93, which I think is a kick in the head. Not many old broads grace covers.” For Apfel, however, this may be one trend she can actually get behind.
By The Lady Aye
Photographed by Vanessa Lenz
This story originally appeared in the April/May 2015 print edition of BUST magazine.
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