97-year-old Iris Apfel is the world’s oldest fashion icon. Known just as much for her witty quotes as for her love of mismatched prints and oversized glasses, the American model and designer has become a leading figure in the fight against ageism within the fashion industry. She proved once again that is never too late to reach your goals and reinvent yourself.
After finding fame at the age of 83, when her eccentric sense of style was the subject of the Costume Institute’s 2004 exhibition, ‘Rara Avis: The Irreverent Iris Apfel’, she’s gone on to be the star of the documentary film, ‘Iris‘, collaborate on a make-up collection for MAC and model for Kate Spade, Alexis Bittar and Blue Illusion. Now, she has been signed to one of the world’s most prominent modelling agencies, IMG.
We can learn a lot from her.
Gettin’ old ain’t for sissies – she said-. You start falling apart, but you just have to buck up and paste yourself together. You may not like getting older, but what’s the alternative? You’re here. Embrace it. I say put your experience to work, to give something back to other people.
In her book Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon (Harper Design Publishing), which captures her unique joie de vivre and contains an eclectic mix of musings and 180 full-color and black-and-white photos and illustrations, she shares her multifaceted style and her witty anecdotes from childhood to the present, essays on style and various subjects, from the decline of manners to the importance of taking risks.
For Iris Apfel is easy to age playfully and a wrinkle is “a badge of courage”. She believes we shouldn’t pretend to be younger than we are. “There’s nothing wrong with wrinkles. When you’re older, trying to look years younger is foolish, and you’re not fooling anyone. When you’re seventy-five and you get a face-lift, nobody is going to think you are thirty,” she says.
The geriatric starlet, as she likes to call herself, also suggests cultivating a sense of wonder, a sense of humour, and a sense of curiosity.
Doing new things takes a lot of energy and strength. It’s very tiring to make things happen, to learn how to master a skill, to push fears aside. Most people would rather just go with the flow; it’s much easier. But it’s not very interesting.
What’s the meaning of success for Iris Apfel? “If you’re happy, have found love, are surrounded by good people, doing what you like and giving back to others, that’s success. Selling your soul for a buck is not worth the real price you pay — not to me, anyway.”