Home Blog Age-defying fashion icon Iris Apfel challenges stereotypes and inspires generations.

Age-defying fashion icon Iris Apfel challenges stereotypes and inspires generations.

Age-defying fashion icon Iris Apfel challenges stereotypes and inspires generations.

Age-defying fashion icon Iris Apfel challenges stereotypes and inspires generations.

Embracing Age: The Inspirational Legacy of Iris Apfel

Iris Apfel, the indomitable fashion maven known for her bold style and fearless approach to life, passed away on March 1st at the remarkable age of 102. Her journey through life was not just a testament to longevity but a vibrant example of defying ageist stereotypes and showcasing the endless possibilities that come with age. From her early days as a student of art history to her iconic status as a fashion icon in her later years, Apfel’s life journey dispels the myth that age and competency are intrinsically linked.

Born in 1921 to parents who were successful business owners, Apfel’s early exposure to the world of entrepreneurship and creativity laid the foundation for her future endeavors. She pursued her passion for art history at New York University and later attended the University of Wisconsin for art school. It was during this time that Apfel’s keen eye for aesthetics began to take shape, setting the stage for her future career in the world of fashion and design.

After graduating, Apfel embarked on a career as a copywriter for Women’s Wear Daily, a renowned fashion trade journal. It was here that she honed her skills in communication and developed a deep understanding of the fashion industry. At the age of 27, she met her husband, Carol Apfel, and together they embarked on a journey that would change the course of her life.

In 1950, the couple founded Old World Weavers, a tapestry business specializing in antique reproductions and fabric restoration. Their business quickly gained acclaim, attracting a prestigious clientele that included the likes of Greta Garbo and nine sitting presidents. Over the next four decades, Apfel and her husband traveled extensively, sourcing fabrics and designs from around the world to cater to their high-society clientele.

But it wasn’t until later in life that Apfel’s star truly began to shine. In 1992, after 42 years of running their successful business, the couple sold Old World Weavers. Despite stepping away from the day-to-day operations of the business, Apfel remained as engaged and active as ever, seizing new opportunities and embracing new adventures with gusto.

In 2005, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute approached Apfel to showcase some of her unique jewelry. What began as a simple display of accessories soon evolved into a full-blown exhibition celebrating Apfel’s iconic style. Titled “Rara Avis: The Irreverent Iris Apfel,” the exhibition featured over 80 styled ensembles and 300-plus accessories, showcasing Apfel’s fearless approach to fashion and her knack for mixing high and low-end pieces with effortless ease.

Following the success of the exhibition, Apfel’s fame soared to new heights. At the age of 84, she became a bona fide fashion icon, celebrated for her eclectic style and unapologetic approach to self-expression. But Apfel was far from done.

In the years that followed, Apfel continued to defy expectations and break down barriers. At the age of 90, she became an instructor at the University of Texas, sharing her wealth of knowledge and experience with a new generation of aspiring designers. At 93, she starred in her own documentary, “Iris,” which offered a candid glimpse into her extraordinary life and career.

Not content to rest on her laurels, Apfel published her book, “Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon,” at the age of 96, sharing her unique perspective on style, aging, and the importance of embracing one’s individuality. And at the age of 97, she made headlines once again by signing a modeling contract with IMG Models, becoming the oldest person to be represented by the global agency.

In a world that often equates age with decline, Apfel’s life serves as a powerful reminder that age is just a number. Her boundless energy, creativity, and passion for life are a testament to the fact that there are no limits to what one can achieve, regardless of age.

As the centenarian population continues to grow, Apfel’s legacy serves as an inspiration to people of all ages, reminding us to embrace the opportunities that come with each passing year and to never stop pursuing our passions. In a society that often overlooks and undervalues older adults, Apfel’s life is a beacon of hope and a reminder that age is not a barrier to success, but rather a testament to a life well-lived.

In the words of Iris Apfel herself, “One is never too old to make a difference.” And indeed, her remarkable life journey is a testament to the enduring power of creativity, resilience, and the indomitable human spirit.


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