I remember the day my mom forced me to watch this seemingly random fashion documentary about an old lady with huge glasses.
Just a few minutes into the film, I realized that Iris Apfel deserved so much more than this vague description. Known for her layered jewelry, love of feathers, and of course, her signature black-rimmed glasses, Apfel is truly a style icon. A vibrant soul with a work ethic and closet to match, here is everything you need to know about Iris Apfel.
Born in 1921, Apfel has lived through it all — and at the age of 97, she has shown no signs of slowing down. Early in her career, she worked for Women’s Wear Daily and later, for interior designer Elinor Johnson. After marrying her late husband Carl Apfel, they began a textiles firm called Old World Weavers. This business took the couple around the world and even to the White House, where Apfel undertook several restoration projects for nine different presidents! Little did Apfel know that the trinkets and accessories she bought as souvenirs would become part of her iconic style.
Since her rise to “geriatric stardom,” Apfel has been absolutely everywhere. In 2005, her own exhibit featuring some of her most iconic pieces opened in The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The exhibit was so successful that a traveling collection was shown around the world. Iris has received multiple awards and starred in two documentaries about her life. She even has her own line with HSN that is sold around the world. The eccentricity and light that Apfel offers the world cannot be ignored.
What makes this better is Apfel’s connection to The University of Texas at Austin. As a visiting professor, Apfel leads a group of students in a program called UT in NYC. The program is an immersive one for students in the upper division of Textiles and Apparel. Apfel provides a behind-the-scenes experience in New York by calling on her colleagues to allow students into showrooms, boardrooms and about everything in between. The experience is once in a lifetime, and Apfel knows how to make it worthwhile.
Nancy Prideaux, a senior lecturer and coordinator of UT in NYC, works closely with Iris before and during the program. Getting to see Iris Apfel in her natural habitat is a regular summer happening for Prideaux. The two have quite the history and many memories shared. Prideaux recalls trips to Bergdorf Goodman and even the look in Iris’ eye when she was handed her visiting professor business cards. The pair make a fashionably unstoppable team!
When asked about the best piece of fashion advice Iris has given her, Prideaux said, “To dress for me and wear what makes me feel good.” Preach. Prideaux’s relationship with the “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” Iris Apfel is one that will never be forgotten.
Iris Apfel is someone who will go down in history for her love of eccentric accessories. No matter the changing times, Iris and her glasses are one for the books. The pair has dominated the fashion industry one accessory at a time. •
By Analisa Camacho
Graphics by Jennifer Jimenez
Analisa Camacho is a third-year Advertising student at the University of Texas at Austin. She is a biannual writer for Spark Magazine. In her free time she loves exploring Austin’s food scene, window shopping and taking pictures. Cheers!