Less is not more when it comes to 93-year-old fashion eccentric Iris Apfel. The more the merrier and the greater amount of garb the more layers of creativity to inspire.
Iris follows the fashion maverick Iris Apfel—iconic for bold lenses and a neckline adorned with more costume jewelry than Coco Chanel would ever wear out her front door. But while the topic of fashion may appear superficial, Iris proves that beauty may be evoked at any age with any style.
She and her husband Carl — who turns 100 in the film — started out as interior designers, traveling the world every year collecting fabrics, knick-knacks and furniture that they used in refurbishing all sorts of grand manors, including the White House. Then they started their own fabric company, while Iris cultivated her fashion style.
I found looking through the lens of documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles (“Grey Gardens”), who passed away in March, was equivalent to a backstage pass at a historical fashion show featuring the icon of costume jewelry excess.
From fashion editors to socialites to bloggers, Iris is one whom many have come to admire throughout the years and look toward for fashion forward inspiration. She’s a unique bird who would rather be the most overdressed to the party and couldn’t care less how outlandish she looks in the process.
In an interview with Interview Magazine, Apfel discussed her personal taste and the evolution of her eclectic style.
“As soon as I needed glasses, I thought, ‘If I was going to wear glasses, let me wear glasses!’ I used to collect frames. I’ve been collecting accessories since I was 11-years-old, creeping around flea markets and sales and everything. Whenever I saw unusual eyeglass frames, I bought them. Occasionally, I would wear them just as an accessory without any lenses. So, when I had to wear them, I took out an old pair, and I put lenses in them. That’s what I’ve been doing. And people would always say to me, ‘Why are you wearing such large frames?’ And I would say, ‘The bigger to see you.'”
Whether it be photographs in the New York Post by fashion photographer Bill Cunningham or streaming on the pages of fashion blogs, Iris’s iconic eyeglasses have always been familiar. But the woman behind the lenses was always a mystery to me–what a better opportunity to educate than through a documentary!
“Well, he heard about me because of something I was doing, and he called. At first I refused because I thought, ‘Well, no. What does anybody need a documentary about me for? I have nothing to sell and no ego problems.’ I didn’t want to do it. But then I spoke to several people including my good friend, Linda, and she said I must be crazy, that people would drop dead to work with Albert Maysles and, ‘He’s courting you, and you’re saying no. Who the hell do you think you are?’ Anyway, after thinking about it, he called again fortunately. I went up to his studio and met the staff, and we all fell in love. I had no idea what I was getting into. I’ve never done anything like it. I didn’t know anything about documentaries, but he promised that they would be very discreet and that they would not get in my hair and just follow. And that’s what we did. It went on and off for about four years because we were very rarely in the same place at the same time. He was in Europe a lot getting awards, and I was working and traveling, and I broke my hip and all that. But we finally ended up with enough film to make three more movies. I don’t know what went on the cutting room floor, but a lot of stuff. And of course, he didn’t work with any kind of script, so I had no idea what to expect. It was all done on blind sight. It was a wonderful experience because he was a great and talented gentleman. Everybody thinks we were old, old friends; we just hit it off. I never met him until the day we started to work together.”
On what she looks for while shopping (because haven’t you always wanted to shop with Iris Apfel?) via The Coveteur …
“It has to jump out and say something. I like offbeat things; I have very few run of the mill things. I have a lot of pieces that are from other periods that may fit perfectly, but are not the usual thing that you would see. You can’t do houses and have everything you need right at your fingertips, and clients don’t like to wait too long. So whenever I saw unusual things I bought them—in all kinds of crazy places.”
On what she collects now…
“I’ve had to cut down drastically as we’ve run out of wall space. Fortunately, I’m not a minimalist, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. I have a couple of storage spaces. I still buy small things that appeal to me and I still collect jewelry with a vengeance.”