“I’m often asked by my guests if they can see my closets,” reveals Iris Apfel. “I’ve had hundreds of editors of big-time magazines asking if they can come over for a tour. That’s never going to happen.” Luckily for us, a pop-up dedicated to her inimitable style at Bergdorf Goodman on Fifth Avenue in New York for the launch of her new book Accidental Icon, is the closest we may ever come to rifling through her rails.
All Things Iris features collaborations with fashion designers and beauty brands including Alice + Olivia, Naeem Khan and Estée Lauder in celebration of the self-appointed geriatric starlet’s inimitable style. “I don’t have any rules, so I can’t break them,” confesses the celebrated collector of antique textiles.
“People can’t teach you about style, in my opinion. That comes with your own DNA. You can learn about fashion but not style. If they want to be fashionable they just have to work at it. It’s not an instant process. And I wish people – especially young people – would cultivate their individuality more than trying to copy everyone else. Hone your eye and experiment and know who you are and try to express yourself.”
She muses, “Although I’m in my 90s, I still feel like I’m five and a half because I always look at the world like I’m discovering it for the first time. If I could remain one age forever, I wouldn’t. I don’t believe in that. I never think about age – it’s a passing thought. It’s just a number. Keeping company with younger people is a good idea. They know what’s going on – or they think they do. It is true. Getting old ain’t for sissies. You start falling apart, but you just have to buck up and paste yourself together.” She observes, “You may not like getting older, but what’s the alternative? You’re here – embrace it. I say, put your experience to work, give something back to other people.”
At 96, Iris is more in demand than ever, with Mattel making a one-off Gucci-clad Barbie in her image. “I’ve found that work is very healthy for me. I love what I do and I put my heart and soul into it. Since my husband died [in 2015], I work even more to take my mind off his absence, which is good on one hand but not so much on the other, when I push myself too hard.”
Any life lessons for Grazia readers, Iris? “You’ve only have one trip, and the present is all you’ve got. The past isn’t coming back, and the future isn’t here yet! So live each day as though it were your last,” she declares. “And one day you’ll be right.”
Photos: Keith Major, Luis Monteiro, Rex Features and Instagram