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The Late Iris Apfel On Living Fearlessly, Dressing Boldly And Loving Life

iris apfel
Iris Apfel On Living FearlesslyNoam Galai - Getty Images

American fashion icon Iris Apfel has died at the age of 102.

News of her death was announced on Instagram on Saturday March 2 alongside a picture of the designer wearing her famous oversized round spectacles.

'Iris Barrel Apfel. August 29, 1921 - March 1, 2024,' read the post's caption.

Apfel’s agent Lori Sale confirmed her death on Friday in a statement with the PA news agency.

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'Iris Apfel was extraordinary, working alongside her was the honour of a lifetime,' she said. 'I will miss her daily calls, always greeted with the familiar question: "What have you got for me today?" Testament to her insatiable desire to work. She was a visionary in every sense of the word. She saw the world through a unique lens – one adorned with giant, distinctive spectacles that sat atop her nose. Through those lenses, she saw the world as a kaleidoscope of colour, a canvas of patterns and prints.'

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US designer Tommy Hilfiger paid tribute to Apfel, a self-proclaimed 'geriatric starlet', describing her to PA as an 'innovator and leader' in the fashion industry, adding that she 'will go down in history'.

'Iris Apfel has become a world-famous fashion icon because of her incredible talent not only as an artist, but as an influencer,' he said. 'She has had an amazing effect on so many people with her huge heart and magic touch with everyone she meets.'

Designer Jenna Lyons noted on Apfel's Instagram post: 'Thank you for sharing your beautiful life.'

'The fashion gods are welcoming an icon,' actor Lily Collins.

iris apfel
Astrid Stawiarz - Getty Images

Born in 1921, Apfel studied art history at the New York University before attending the fine arts school at Wisconsin University. She went on to become a founder of the international textile manufacturing company Old World Weavers in 1950 alongside her husband Carl, who passed away in in 2015 aged 100.

Apfel entered the fashion industry's consciouness in her eighties when her wardrobe formed the 2005 exhibition titled Rara Avis: Selections From The Iris Barrel Apfel Collection at the Costume Institute, which explored 'the power of dress and accessories to assert style above fashion'.

She also featured in campaigns for the likes of Coach and Kate Spade.

In light of Apfel's passing, we look back at a 2019 interview with the fashion icon about her views on life, love and living fearlessly:

How do we encourage more inclusivity in fashion?

'Well fashion has to be inclusive on the part of the designers. They have to include and think about who they are selling to and not just think about making a pretty dress. Making a beautiful evening dress, for example, on an 18-year-old body to sell in the 65-year-old market is pretty silly!

'I mean you need the 65-year-old because she has the money to spend. So you have to realise that you need to make a dress for the person who is buying it, she will shell out the money.

'And I think designers should think more about that market which is sadly neglected, and pay them a bit more mind and include more people. Not everyone is tall and willowy!'

iris apfel
Brad Barket - Getty Images

What does 'joie de vivre' mean to you?

'Well it means living well – it means appreciating, not grumbling. Looking at the better side of things. 'Joie de vivre' implies attitude and it means you have to have a positive attitude… the glass is half full.

'Everyone has problems, but you have to work around them and look at the brighter side. Be kind to everybody.'

And then also similarly love. How can people love openly and fearlessly?

Well how else can you do it!

What is the best thing about being in love?

Oh I think it makes you feel warm and cosy and protected. And that’s pretty wonderful. And also having somebody to share things with!

This interview has been updated in light of Apfel's death.


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