Iris Apfel’s most iconic fashion moments

Iris Apfel. Picture: Instagram.

Iris Apfel. Picture: Instagram.

Published Mar 6, 2024


Getting to live for over 100 years is a blessing, but slaying for over a century is legendary.

Iris Apfel, who passed away on March 1, at the age of 102, was a fashion icon whose impeccable style will be remembered for generations.

She was known as that lady who loved accessorising, and her outfit wasn’t complete without funky spectacles and excessive beaded jewellery.

Her style consisted of bright colours and bold prints, especially florals, and when combined with bold statement pieces, she sure left a remarkable statement.

Apfel joined the fashion industry in 1950 when her husband, Carl Apfel, and her launched the textile firm Old World Weavers, which they successfully ran until their retirement in 1992.

Her first job was as a copywriter at Women’s Wear Daily before becoming an interior designer for Elinor Johnson, and the illustrator Robert Goodman.

Having spent most of her career searching for textiles, Apfel knew how to create a bold statement using clashing prints and flamboyant fabrics.

As a result, she became one of the most stylish people who dared to be different and treated every day like a fashion show. To her, the aim was not to be well dressed but to be happy.

"Fashion really is women's liberation in a lot of ways. Look at how many women in this country are depressed about how they look and how they think they have to look! It's really sad. And it's not about money," Apfel once said.

In celebrating her long-lived, happy life, we look at some of her most iconic moments.

Exhibition at The Costume Institute

In 2005, Apfel was honoured by the Costume Institute by spotlighting her collection of accessories.

Titled “Rara Avis: Selections from the Iris Apfel Collection,” Apfel’s exhibition showcased 40 objects, focusing on the power of accessories and how they enhance certain styles.

Some of her personal accessories that were showcased included a Gripoix brooch, Roger Jean-Pierre bracelet, a Mexican turquoise and hammered-silver belt, a Central Asian silver choker, a pair of 18th century paste earrings, and a pair of modern plastic cuffs.

The exhibition held at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, ran from September 2005 to January 2006.

Some of Iris Apfel’s accessories that she shot for Vogue. Picture: Instagram.

Becoming the oldest cover star

If there’s one thing Apfel will be remembered for is that she lived her life to the fullest. She never saw herself as too old to chase her dreams.

At the age of 91, she became the oldest person to grace the cover of Dazed magazine, a major moment in the industry because not only did it prove that drip is forever, but it also became a motivation for those who felt like they had passed their prime.

“If I’m ever disappointed about anything, just thinking about Iris makes me feel inspired again. Her existence has changed the way people think about fashion, and about themselves in the meantime.

“I hope to be like her ASAP, not just once I’m her age,” said American actress and writer Tavi Gevinson.

Iris Apfel. Picture: Instagram.

Becoming a model at 97

It is no secret that Apfel had always been a muse in her way. However, she didn’t sign with an agency until 2019. And it’s all thanks to Tommy Hilfiger, who encouraged her, and IMG signed her.

And when she was 101, she landed her first beauty campaign with Ciaté London to launch her eight-piece make-up range.

"For the creatives, the routine-lovers, and the daredevils, this collection combines everything I have come to love about beauty over my 100 years," Apfel said at the time.

"I have worked hard with Charlotte and the team at Ciaté London on my new collection to ensure that every formulation has been designed with you in mind. I hope this collection acts as a reminder that to be truly yourself is to be unstoppable."

Iris Apfel for Ciaté London. Picture: Instagram.

Releasing a fashion book

In 2018, Apfel released a book titled: “Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon”. And it would’ve been silly had she not released a book.

And, no, it’s not a memoir but more like a fashion bible where she shares musings on life, style, fashion, and more.

In the book, she shares one of the most profound fashion truths, which later became a widespread quote.

She said: “You can learn to be fashionable, you can become fashionable, but when it comes to style, real style, it’s in your DNA. And you got it or you ain't.”

Iris Apfel’s fashion book. Picture: Instagram

Hottest magazine cover

In February 2022, when she was 100 years old, Apfel was the cover star for Palm Beach magazine.

Draped in a peacock-like dress Giambattista Valli, Apfel felt amazing to be a lead on the antique’s platinum anniversary edition and till today, that picture remains one of her best, shout out to the photographer Ruvén Afanador because even when announcing her passing, they used that image.

Apfel will forever be remembered as a fashion icon who knew that “more is more and less is a bore”.

Although she was young at heart, Apfel embraced growing up and never wished to look younger than she was.

Iris Apfel’s hottest magazine cover. Picture: Instagram.

"The older you get, the more stupid it seems to try to look younger. Yes, and you can't trick anyone anyway. If you do a facelift at 75, no one will accept you as 30. It's just stupid to lie under a knife or inject yourself with all kinds of chemicals to look a couple of years younger.

“Yes, and the result of all these interventions will not last forever. Not to mention that something can go wrong, after which you risk becoming like Picasso's brush portrait,” she once said.