Nonagenarian Iris Apfel is one of fashion’s most instantaneously recognisable tastemakers. She has been the subject of several museum exhibitions, a coffee table book and even an advertising campaign for MAC cosmetics.
Often colourful, always interesting, the bespectacled New Yorker’s popularity was once a rare exception to fashion’s love of youth. However, things are changing, and that is in no small part due to the wit, taste and intellect of Apfel, who has described herself as “the world’s oldest living teenager.”
In 2005, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City premiered an exhibition about Apfel, titled Rara Avis (Rare Bird): The Irreverent Iris Apfel. Carla Fendi, Giorgio Armani and Karl Lagerfeld were counted among the numerous attendees. Apfel has graced the pages of Vogue Italia (photographed by Bruce Weber), and, at 91 years old, was the oldest cover star ever to grace Dazed & Confused.
Apfel studied art history at New York University and attended art school at the University of Wisconsin. As a young woman, Apfel worked for Women’s Wear Dailyand for the interior designer Elinor Johnson. She has also acted as an assistant to illustrator Robert Goodman.
In 1948, she married Carl Apfel. Two years later they launched the textile firm Old World Weavers and ran it until they retired in 1992. Apfel once described her textile designs as “classic but over the top” to the London Evening Standard.
Apfel has taken part in several design projects, including work at the White House for nine presidents: Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton.