Iris: A Life Lived Fabulously

Sometimes the word “legendary” doesn’t even begin to describe a person of extraordinary talent. Singular adjectives are far too plain, so we must excessively heap superlatives before their names to achieve an admirable attempt. Iris Apfel is one such individual.

It’s hard not to love Ms. Apfel; she’s smart as hell and has a direct, no-nonsense decisiveness that’s made her a force to be reckoned with in business.  She’s got a great sense of humour and at the age 93 she shows no intention of slowing down.  Her energy and her incredible wit is still as sharp as its ever been. while her style retains the incredible explosion of fabulous furs, mismatched prints, colours and oversized accessories that first brought her fame.

Always vibrant and eclectic, Ms. Apfel is one of fashion’s most instantaneously recognizable taste makers. She has been the subject of several museum exhibitions, a coffee table book and has been the muse of phenomenal designers including Dries van Noten and Alexis Bittar… she was even the face of a MAC Cosmetics advertising campaign at age 90!

This feisty, colorful lady has been a staple of Manhattan’s society scene for the past 70 years, and is known not only for her admirable business skills and entrepreneurial enterprises, but for her incredible sense of style. Iris has built herself an empire- she’s worked at Vogue and Women’s Wear Daily, launched and ran major textiles firm Old World Weavers with her husband of over 40 years, she’s helped to decorate and restore the White House and today has a line of accessories with HSN. The lady never stops!

In 2005 the Metropolitan Museum of Art premiered an exhibition entitled Rara Avis (Rare Bird): The Irreverent Iris Apfel, a display of haute couture clothes and jewelry from Ms. Apfel’s personal wardrobe (the first ever show of a personal collection shown at the Met). It was an enormous hit- Carla Fendi, Giorgio Armani and Karl Lagerfeld were counted among the numerous premiere attendees, and the exhibit dazzled the immense daily crowds along with those who attended the various other museum tour showings.

It’s needless to say that Ms. Apfel has been a mainstream celebrity ever since.

Iris, the penultimate work of legendary documentarian Albert Maysles opened on April 29th, and offers a peek into the world of the fabulous nonagenarian (she prefers the term “geriatric starlet”). Packed with gorgeous visuals, countless one-on-one interviews with Mr. and Mrs. Apfel and spiced with the lady’s signature wit, the film is a rare treat for all lovers of fashion documentaries and offers a look into Ms. Apfel’s day-to-day life. There are glimpses of her expanses of sumptuously- packed closets and storage spaces across New York City and Florida, her vision to piece them all together in a collection in Florida’s Museum of Lifestyle & Fashion History at Boynton Beach and, most lovely, her 67-year marriage to Carl Apfel, her biggest fan, greatest supporter and possibly the most easygoing style guinea pig.

Iris shows that Ms. Apfel is a master of collecting- not just in the sense of acquiring physical items, but in the habit of amassing knowledge. To a fashion, fashion history and business-minded person, she’s a veritable gold mine of sensibility and advice, with an expertise gained from a lifelong passion for style and an insatiable interest in art and fashion.

One thing I love about the film is her natural ability as a stylist. Iris shows scenes of Ms. Apfel at work and shopping in New York flea markets where her eye for fine style is immediately evident. She’s an inimitable styling talent- Ms.  Apfel has always adored things that look “interesting”- things with an unusual history or story, and she’s never been afraid to experiment with elements from contrasting references to see how they work together in a full look.   

The results are always unexpected and thoroughly fabulous. Sometimes her work is riotously vibrant, but it’s always cohesive and never mindless. The film shows that there’s a method that exists amongst all the visual ‘madness’. It definitely takes a lot of informed work to pull of a style like hers, but Iris Apfel- whether at the grocer’s or a gala, is ALWAYS everything fashionable.

So loves, if you’re looking for a great fashion film to fall for, this is definitely one to swoon over!

Happy viewing!

-Ana x

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