This month see's the release of a documentary about the
nonagenarian style icon, Iris Apfel. We look a little into her
life, muses and inspirations.
At 94 years old, Iris is more celebrated than ever, known as the
colourful, modernist-inspired style icon with giant
spectacles. In 2005 the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New
york exposed Iris Apfel's poetic eye for styling in an
exhibition called Rara Avis (Rare bird): The Irreverent Iris
Apfel. Since then Iris is on the radar in the fashion
world, working for brands as MAC and & Other Stories
and inspiring many women to be more bold and
Her father as interior designer her
mother owning a fashion boutique, Iris has a strong background in
both interior and fashion design from young age. Together with
husband Carl Apfel, Iris launched Old World Weavers, producing
antique fabrics as an characteristic accessory. They provided
curtains, furniture and drapes for the White house, working for 9
different presidents. She established her name in interior
design, her style influenced by her many travels.
"I travelled extensively,
all over the world. Travel opened my eyes to so many things
and I wouldn't be myself without it. I love the Middle East and
North Africa for its colors, sights and sounds, traveling there is
a sensory experience."
INSPIRATIONS: ART &
"I guess everybody who
worked with colour was influenced by our friend. Mr Matisse
certainly knows how to carve through colour. "
Over decades, Iris was unconsciously influenced by Henri Matisse,
showing in her signature style. She uses her extensive wardrobe to
express the feelings captured in her favourite artworks and
interprets them into eclectic outfits.
Iris's interpretation of a favourite piece, Matisse's 'The Snail',
has the main focus on a 'very, very vintage' Dior Cape, matched
with colourful, vibrant bangles. It is an elegant interpretation,
yet bold and sleek, showing both the playful, but yet precise
elements of the work.
Chosen for its colour, another favourite Matisse is The horse, the
rider and the clown. Iris makes a link between the artwork and an
old vintage Gianni Versace and she is pleased to see also Versace
got influenced by Matisse. "For everyone working
with colour is it impossible not to be inspired by
"Colour is one of the most important things in the world. I
can't live without colour. The world is so dull and grey that we
need colour more than ever and have a little fun... Colour can
raise the dead!"
The artwork itself is a cutout from a collection called jazz,
an interest both Matisse and Iris have in common, as Iris is a jazz
Behind her personality as fashion icon there is a vision of
Individuality. Iris states she is disappointed in the current loss
of individuality in style, that everything is homogenised these
days. People are missing out on the creative experience. Though she
admits that individuality and creativity is in your DNA and being
an individual takes effort, it is about self-expression and
"The anonymity of it-it's all too similar. I think people
should express themselves more and not just buy what's in. While it
can be very beautiful and it may suit you perfectly, I'm sure it
doesn't suit everyone in the same way. I like people who express
themselves and are more
Iris is an inspiration for
individuality, she is driven to be unique and her passion of
making the impossible outfit come together. For instance, Iris
was one of the first woman to wear a pair of jeans. In university
she decided she wanted a pair, as she already had an outfit in
mind. Back then, jeans were only sold to big husky men, but after
weeks of chasing a jeans store, the owner eventually gave her a
pair of boy's jeans. Ever since, she is a denim lover and
shows this time after time. Denim could be seen as a counter-effect
on the bright and bold jewellery she wears. But adding in
extravagant details, such as Micky Mouse embroidery, makes the
denim outfit unique and come to life.
Iris Apfel on getting dressed:
"I like to do this, as if I am playing jazz"
As an art-school undergrad, Iris
developed a fascination for jazz music. In her curiosity and
by the lack of reading material about her favorite jazz artists,
she decided to write her own paper. One of her favorites was Duke
Ellington. As a young teen she traveled to his show in Chicago and
managed to have him read her paper. "I don't remember
what I wrote, but it was very wonderful."
Jazz has great similarities with the poetic-eye Iris creates
outfits. Improvisation is key in jazz and according to Iris the
main ingredient for composing the right outfit. And as Iris draws
elements from all different cultures and periods, jazz is the
"Everything is interrelated: economics and science and
fashion are all a part of the same. If you look at a dress, it's
affected by all of those things. You can almost tell what was going
on during that period."
Iris Apfel's art of style is shaped through many inspirations
and it much represents her personality and vision. Her ultimate
inspiration for style: "Listen to your inner muse and take