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Iris Apfel: Iconic US Fashion Designer Passes Away at 102

Renowned American designer and fashion icon Iris Apfel has passed away at the age of 102.

Describing herself as a “geriatric starlet,” Apfel was recognized for her unique style, characterized by cropped white hair, oversized glasses, vibrant lipstick, and chunky beads. While she attained the height of her fame in the 1980s and 90s, Apfel remained a familiar presence at Paris fashion shows for over half a century.

In addition to her impactful presence in the fashion world, she catered to a host of celebrity clients, counting Greta Garbo and Estée Lauder among them.

The news of her passing was shared with her nearly three million Instagram followers through a post featuring a picture of Apfel adorned in her iconic oversized round glasses.

Renowned US designer Tommy Hilfiger was among those expressing tributes, lauding Apfel as an “innovator and leader” in the realm of textiles and style, destined to be remembered in history.

Getty Images Designer Iris Apfel poses for a photo at 92nd Street Y on May 2, 2018 in New York City
Iris Apfel was aged 97 when she signed a modelling contract with global agency IMG Models, who also represent Gigi Hadid and Karlie Kloss

“Iris Apfel rose to global fame as a fashion icon, showcasing incredible talent not just as an artist but also as an influencer,” he remarked. “Her enormous heart and enchanting interactions have left an incredible impact on countless individuals.”

US singer Lenny Kravitz and actress Hannah Waddingham from Ted Lasso also conveyed their tributes.

Born into a Jewish family in New York in 1921, Apfel initially pursued studies in art history, specializing in interior design, with a focus on textiles. Her career spanned decades as an interior designer, which included contributions to restoration projects at the White House. Later in life, she became a trendsetter in her 80s and ventured into professional modeling at the age of 97.

Describing the experience of working alongside Apfel as “the honor of a lifetime,” her agent Lori Sale expressed the sentiment, “I will miss her daily calls, always greeted with the familiar question: ‘What have you got for me today?’ Testament to her insatiable desire to work.”

“She epitomized vision in every aspect. Her perspective was unparalleled, seen through the lens of oversized, distinctive spectacles perched on her nose. Through those lenses, she viewed the world as a vibrant kaleidoscope of color, a canvas adorned with patterns and prints.

“Her artistic vision had the power to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary, seamlessly blending the unconventional with the elegant in a truly magical way.”

In 2014, acclaimed director Albert Maysles created a documentary titled Iris, focusing on her life.

During an interview with BBC Newsnight in 2015, she expressed her belief that “dressing up should be fun” and viewed it as an opportunity to play. Apfel, being a creative individual, considered dressing up as an integral part of her life and encouraged others to embrace creativity.

When questioned about her stance on age-appropriate attire, she responded that if one could confidently carry it off, then it was indeed appropriate.


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