A woman with a gazillion strings to her bow, self-proclaimed “geriatric starlet” Iris Apfel shows us that age is really just a number. Whilst we all admire her vibrant bangles and statement specs, what is it really that makes her such an influential figure?
“I don’t make any rules, because I would only be breaking them, it’s a waste of time”
ELLE Interview, www.elle.com. April 27, 2015.
It’s without question Iris Apfel’s expansive and diverse career is something anyone would be envious of. From published author to design restoration at the White House, her ability to add tricks to her repertoire appears seamless. Whilst it may look like the secret to her success is pushing herself, it appears to be far more admirable – not taking herself too seriously and rejecting rules.
Approaching her 100th birthday later this year and still making waves across the globe, Iris is illustrating that keeping a sense of light-heartedness is crucial to progression. At the age of 97 Iris signed a modelling contract with international powerhouse IMG, the company which represents the likes of Bella Hadid and Kate Moss. Her involvement with IMG is a direct result of her philosophy of being true to herself. Her dedication to personal style and self-expression has trumped established beauty standards and highlighted the potential for change we all wish to see. Not only has Iris shown that stepping out of the status-quo can lead to success, but she is also paving the way for older women to feel confident in their personal style too.
Alongside her jump into the modelling world, Iris has also become the oldest person to have a Barbie Doll made in her image. Decked in an embroidered Gucci suit and endless layers of necklaces and jewels, the mini-me is adding a layer of age diversity to the brands canon. Her introduction to the Barbie world marks an important moment for age inclusivity whilst also further demonstrating the importance of style over conventional beauty.
“When you don’t dress like everybody else, you don’t have to think like everybody else”
"At 90, Fashion’s Latest Pop Star". Interview with Ruth La Ferla, www.nytimes.com. August 23, 2011.
Iris’s promotion of dressing for individuality speaks for itself. Once the confines of judgement and criticism are removed, she aptly notes that so are the rules that require you to think like others and thus personal freedom takes centre stage. In committing to her own style, she has been able to step out of the mainstream establishment of the fashion industry and promote what is really important. Her success in doing so has been marked by the 2005 Rava Avis: The Irreverent Iris Apfel exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The collection was the museums first exhibit surrounding clothing and accessories focused on a living person who’s not a designer. Taking this into consideration, it underscores that Iris’s attitude to fashion not only works but is actually ingenious.
Although Iris is coming towards the end of a long and prosperous life, she hasn’t become complacent in her old age or tried to capture a dead youth. She respects she is no spring chicken and that ageing brings with it challenges. Unlike many people who have left their prime behind however, Iris believes “if you’re lucky enough to get old, I think you should celebrate it” - and that is exactly what she is doing. In brushing off the rule book of what old people are capable of, Iris has gone beyond the realms of exceptional. She has well and truly solidified herself as an inspiration for millions across the globe who don’t want to accept the ordinary and instead, follow their own path.