Iris Apfel speaks her mind on fashion, fame and social media

Editor Rosie McMeel catches up with fashion icon Iris Apfel...

On visiting Ireland… I was in Dublin in 1958. You probably weren’t born. I was visiting for pleasure and enjoyed it very much. I’ve always wanted to go back, but soon after that my husband and I started to travel for business I just never got back.

On some of the extraordinary experiences that have shaped her life… I just go with the flow. I always feel like a sponge. I’m always absorbing something even if I’m unaware of it. When I was putting my first museum show together, I didn’t know I new all the things. I’ve been going to museums and everything for so long I just absorbed so much that I didn't know I did. I’m so sad for the young people because they don’t have many experiences anymore they just press buttons.


Photograph by Keith Major

On smart phones… People are acting like smart phones are their brain and they’re not. In the States it’s become a substitute for many youngsters and I think it’s pitiful.

On social media… I don’t do Instagram, I didn’t even know I had a page. Somebody does it for me and it’s so extraordinary because it’s done by a charming young woman in Vienna, Austria. I don’t like social media at all, I think so much of it is unnecessary and I think so many people use it so badly. They use it in lieu of doing something themselves. So many youngsters have no inner life at all.

On describing her own style… I never describe my style that’s for somebody else to do.

On her frustration with the fashion industry… I think the ridiculous focus on youth and making dresses that cost thousands of dollars for bodies that are 18 years old is so ridiculous. They can’t afford them, and all the women who can afford them look ridiculous if they wear them – it doesn’t make any sense.



On her love of accessories… There are so many, I can’t point to one I really can’t. I mean, I’m collecting accessories since I was eleven-years-old and now I’m 96, so you do the arithmetic. Periodically I do sales and when I do museum shows or something they always want some of my things to sell. I’m launching my new book in Bergdorf Goodman in New York and we’ve done a pop up shop so I’m selling a lot of my excess beautiful costume jewellery so I can make room and to buy more.

Iris’ husband, Carl Apfel (pictured beside her) was as full of life as she is. “There are so many things I loved about Carl. He was hysterically funny. He had the most delicious, off-beat sense of humour. We used to laugh a lot,” writes Iris in her new book.


On having fun with fashion… I think many people take it too seriously and my advice to them is to relax. If it’s a chore, if looking well is a big problem and you’re uptight about the way you look and it makes you nervous, forget it, it’s better to be happy than well dressed.

On being one of the first women in the world to wear jeans… I was maybe the first, I don’t know. Not only were they not available for women at the time, they weren’t a fashion item for men. They were just working clothes. The first time I wore them, I put a very interesting outfit together, and everyone loved it.

On pausing time… I wouldn’t want to stop the clock. No, that would be so boring. It would be like being caught in a time machine, a time warp. I don’t like that. I think variety is the spice of life.

On her legacy… I don’t want to think about a legacy it’s too depressing.


On her extraordinary energy… Sometimes I worry about losing it, but I still do more than any 30-year-old I know. I have no secrets. I don’t have any special diets; I never eat junk food, I don’t like it. I don’t like heavy spices, I don’t like rich food, I don’t drink sodas and stuff, I’m not a lush, and I don’t smoke anymore.

Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon (Harper Design, approx €29, out now)



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