Iris Apfel: the art of aging gracefully

A chat with Iris Apfel, on the eve of her 93rd birthday and still a fashion icon

In a world of increasingly homogenous styles, Iris Apfel distinguishes herself through skilful mixing and matching, sporting king-sized sunglasses and red lipstick. Her trademark style resulted in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art launching a retrospective of her work, confirming her as a fashion icon

You have worked at White House restoration projects for nine U.S. Presidents, which First Lady was the one with more taste for home furnishing?
In order to be a truly authentic ‘historic restoration’ everything must be re-done as close as possible to the original work. The First Lady is always figure head for the project and all decisions are made by the Fine Arts Committee, therefore her personal taste does not come into play.
The historical period that you prefer.
The 1920’s in Paris, after WW1, when it was a blaze with creativity in all the arts: Picasso, Chanel, The Russian ballets etc.
Who has been, between all your customers, the more interesting character?
I’ve been fortunate to have had so many interesting clients, its impossible to name one.
A woman of whom you admire the style.
Millicent Rogers – Standard Oil Heiress – American – mid 20 century.
Is there someone that has inspired your sense of style?
My mother who was very chic.
More frequent ‘fashion faux pas’ that you happen to observed.
One of the greatest fashion faux pas is to look into a mirror and see someone else!
The accessories that a woman should have.
A woman should have all the accessories she can possibly accumulate. Accessories are the most transformative elements of fashion.
The accessories or the dress that women should never wear.
Never say ‘never’.
A book that changed your life.
No book has changed my life. Over the years, I have read many and each one, good bad or indifferent has taught me something.
The best movie ever for those who love fashion, and your favourite movie.
One of the best fashion movies is the ‘Original Broadway’ non-musical version of ‘Auntie Mame’. It was filmed like a stage and Rosalind Russel’s outfits were divine! I have many favourite movies: ‘Prizzi’s Honor’, ‘Gigi’.
One thing you like to do.
I love to work.
One thing you hate to do.
I hate to get up very early in the morning.
The make up product you can’t live without.
Mac lipsticks.
Your favourite perfume.
Mitsouko by Guerlain.
Tips for women of a certain age...
Aging gracefully is about no heavy makeup, and not too much powder because it gets into the wrinkles, and you know, to not get turtle eyelids, and to not try to look young. You don’t have to look like an old fuddy-duddy, but I believe it was Chanel who said, ‘Nothing makes a woman look so old as trying desperately hard to look young’.

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