The Legacy of Iris Apfel

The Legacy of Iris Apfel

Women's History Month 2024 Series #1

Two days ago, on March 1st, Iris Apfel passed away at 102 (and a half) years old. Interior designer, fashion designer, businesswoman, actress, and influencer, you may recognize Iris by her iconic large round glasses and her playful, flamboyant style. In costume jewelry and vibrant colors, Iris exuded confidence and individuality wherever she went.

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

Iris found a love of flea markets and vintage shopping at age 11, was one of the first women to pick up jeans in her 20s, and studied art at both New York University and the University of Wisconsin. She became a copywriter for Women’s Wear Daily, and with her husband founded Old World Weavers textile firm, going on to do textile restoration work at the White House for nine presidents. On top of an impressive career, it was Apfel’s maximalist and eccentric style that captured global attention.

Iris earned worldwide recognition and love at 84 when the Costume Institute at the Met showcased her wardrobe and costume jewelry collection, and her fame peaked in her 90s with a documentary, a book, and exploding social media following. The oldest person to have a Barbie made in her likeness, Iris continued to break barriers when she was signed as an IMG model at the age of 97 and landed her first beauty campaign at 101.

“To me, the worst fashion faux pas is to look in the mirror, and not see yourself” - Iris Apfel

In a world inundated with social media, we see not only what our peers are accomplishing and when, but what strangers are accomplishing and when, and oftentimes it can feel like a race of who is achieving more, better, sooner, younger. I sometimes find myself slipping into the mindset of ‘if someone’s achieved more than me at my age, I’m falling behind’.

Something that my Aunt Teresa said before she passed was that ‘you are always on time for your own life’, and that is something that I’ve carried with me, and consistently remind myself. This career, this story, this timeline, this life, is yours and nobody else’s - there’s no such thing as falling behind when the story is your own and all of our stories are different. You are always exactly on time for your own life.

Iris Apfel’s story and legacy serve as a powerful example that age is truly just a number. She is a symbol of living life to the fullest, embracing individual style and personality, and continuously influencing, achieving, and inspiring well past retirement age.

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