Style and Design Icon Iris Apfel Dies at 102

Fashion icon Iris Apfel, known for her eclectic style, passed away at 102, leaving a lasting legacy of bold individuality and creativity.

Iris Apfel, the legendary fashion icon, passed away on March 1, 2024, at the age of 102. Known for her maximalist style and oversized round glasses, Apfel left an indelible mark on the fashion industry and inspired countless individuals to embrace their unique style.

Style and Design Icon Iris Apfel | Who is Iris Apfel?

Who is Iris Apfel?

Born Iris Barrel on August 29, 1921, in Astoria, Queens, Apfel’s early life was infused with fashion and design influences. Her father owned a glass and mirror business, while her mother ran a fashion boutique, giving young Iris a front-row seat to the world of style and aesthetics. She studied art history at New York University and later at the University of Wisconsin, where she honed her artistic sensibilities.

In 1948, Iris married Carl Apfel, and together they founded Old World Weavers, a textile company specializing in recreating antique fabrics. Their work garnered prestigious projects, including restorations at the White House across multiple administrations. The Apfels’ global travels to source unique textiles enriched both their business and Iris’s distinctive fashion sense.

“More is more and less is a bore.”

Iris Apfel’s personal style—characterized by her bold, eclectic wardrobe and layered accessories—was genuinely unique. Her motto, “More is more and less is a bore,” encapsulated her approach to fashion. She became a household name later in life, especially after the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute showcased her wardrobe in the 2005 exhibition “Rara Avis: Selections from the Iris Apfel Collection.” This exhibit celebrated her as a fashion icon, emphasizing her role as an innovator rather than just a follower of trends.

The 2014 documentary Iris, directed by Albert Maysles, further boosted Apfel’s rise to broader fame. This film offered an intimate look at her life, capturing her boundless energy and passion for fashion, and introduced her to a new generation of admirers. The documentary was well-received and played a significant role in cementing her status as a pop culture icon.

Apfel continued to embrace her individuality well into her later years, becoming a social media sensation in her 90s. She launched several successful product lines, including accessories and home decor, further cementing her influence in fashion and design. Her autobiography, “Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon,” published in 2018, provided an intimate look at her life and philosophy.

Design Icon Iris Apfel

“When you don’t dress like everybody else, you don’t have to think like everybody else.”

Despite her advanced age, Apfel remained an active and vibrant figure in fashion. She frequently attended fashion shows and public events, charming audiences with her wit and unapologetic style. Known for her sharp sense of humour, she often referred to herself as a “geriatric starlet.”

Iris Apfel’s death marks the end of an era, but her legacy will continue to inspire. Her life is a testament to the power of individuality and the beauty of embracing one’s unique style. She once said, “When you don’t dress like everybody else, you don’t have to think like everybody else,” a sentiment that will continue to resonate for generations.

Design Icon Iris Apfel Dies at 102

What did you love most about the fashion, style, and design icon Iris Apfel? For me, her impeccable sense of colour always stood out above all else. She will be missed.


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Posted by Rose Lagacé

Rose Lagacé is a production designer for film & television by day and an emerging filmmaker by night. Rose is also the creator and editor of Art Departmental where she celebrates the art and craft of production design.

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