Everything You Need To Know About Iris Apfel – The Age-Defying Fashion Icon

Iris Apfel fashion international women's day luncheon

by Rebecca Cope |
Published on

94-year-old Iris Apfel is the world’s oldest fashion icon. After finding fame at the age of 83, when her eccentric sense of style was the subject of the Costume Institute’s 2004 exhibition, ‘Rara Avis: The Irreverent Iris Apfel’, she’s gone on to be the star of the documentary film, Iris, collaborate on a make-up collection for MAC and model for Kate Spade, Alexis Bittar and Blue Illusion. Known just as much for her witty quotes as for her love of mismatched prints and oversized glasses, she’s become a leading figure in the fight against ageism within the fashion industry. Find out everything you need to know about the nonagenarian below.

How old is Iris Apfel?

Unlike many stars, Apfel has no problem with someone asking her age (she once said a wrinkle was “a badge of courage”). Born on 29 August, 1921, she will be 95-years-old on her next birthday.

Where does Iris Apfel live?

A New Yorker through and through, Apfel was born in Queens but now lives in a swanky loft apartment in Manhattan thanks to her $22 million fortune.

Why is Iris Apfel famous?

Apfel became a household name in 2004, after her wardrobe became the focus of an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in New York. ‘Rara Avis: The Irreverent Iris Apfel’ showcased her truly unique sense of style, with Dior haute couture sitting next to vintage flea market finds. Her penchant for oversized glasses – which she is rarely seen without - was also highlighted thanks to the bespectacled mannequins that made up the showcase.

Iris Apfel front row desigual
Iris Apfel on the front row at Desigual SS16

Does Iris Apfel have a book?

As well as being the subject of her own exhibition and film, Apfel has also been the focus of a coffee table tome. Her idiosyncratic style takes centre stage in Eric Boman’s beautifully photographed book, ‘Rare Bird of Fashion: The Irreverent Iris Apfel’, although the lady herself does not appear – instead, all of her outfits are shot on wittily posed mannequins (just like in the Costume Institute’s exhibition).

Iris Apfel and Albert Maysles
Iris Apfel and documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles

What is the Iris Apfel film about?

In 2004, 87-year-old documentary film maker Albert Maysles chose Apfel as the subject of his penultimate movie, following her life as a fashion icon for three years between the ages of 90 and 93.

Iris Apfel and husband Carl Apfel
Iris Apfel and her late husband Carl Apfel in 2010

Who was Iris Apfel’s husband?

Married for 67 years, Apfel’s husband Carl was her partner in crime and business partner from 1948 to 2015. The couple could teach you a thing or two about living a long life; he was just three days short of his 101st birthday when he died.

Does Iris Apfel have children?

In the past Apfel has said she didn’t want children, admitting, “You can't have everything and I knew I wanted a career...”

What did Iris Apfel do for a living?

Before finding fame as the world’s oldest style icon, Apfel travelled the world with her husband Carl, buying textiles for their business Old World Weavers, which they ran together until they both retired in 1992. Her exquisite taste also saw her hired as an interior designer for arguably the most famous home in America – the White House – where she worked on redesigns for nine different presidents, from Harold Truman (1945-1953) to Bill Clinton (1993-2001).

Read our favourite Iris Apfel quotes below...


Iris Apfel - Grazia

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We're off to invest in some pompom embellished trousers in that case...

'When the fun goes out of dressing, you might as well be dead.'

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Ah. We’ll remember this motto come winter as we head towards Zara…

‘Life is grey and dull; so you might as well have a little fun when you dress.’

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That’s our wholehearted attempt at minimal Scandi-inspired dressing wasted...

‘When you don’t dress like everyone else then you don’t have to think like everyone else.’

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Turns out you can be totally rebellious when it comes to fashion (even in your eighties).

'I don't have any rules, because I'd only be breaking them.'

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That’s our Gucci loafer fund out the window…

'No amount of money can buy you style. It's just instinctive.'

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'Fashion you can buy, but style you possess. The key to style is learning who you are, which takes years. There's no how-to road map to style. It's about self expression and, above all, attitude.'

In that case, we can't wait to grow old. And neither can our wardrobes...

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Cut the BS because Iris said so.

'I am inspired by everything around me. It's not like I stand out on the moors or any of that romantic crap they throw around. I'm just inspired by being alive and breathing and meeting people and talking to people and doing things and absorbing what's happening. I think if more people did that, there would be better fashion.'

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'If there was a choice on spending a lot of money on accessories or dress, I always chose accessories. I think jewellery can change an outfit more than anything else.'

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Don’t be fooled, she’s no fashion week peacock...

'I don’t dress to be stared at, I dress for myself.'

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'I’ll spend more time getting dressed than I spent at the actual event.'


READ MORE: The Fashion Documentaries You Don't Want To Miss

READ MORE: Iris Apfel Lands Kate Spade Campaign

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