Fashion Icon Iris Apfel Dead At 102

By Victor Winston, updated on March 3, 2024

The fashion and design world has lost a remarkable pioneer.

Iris Apfel, the nonagenarian style icon, has passed away at the impressive age of 102.

Lori Sale, her commercial agent, validated her demise, which was also shared on Apfel's own Instagram account. Known for her vibrant and distinct eclectic taste, Apfel's blend of haute couture with flamboyant costume jewelry set her apart in the fashion industry. Her loss is deeply felt across the globe, marking a poignant closure to a chapter in the style world.

Iris Apfel's Fearless Fashion Legacy and Life Partnership

Iris Apfel was a native New Yorker born on August 29, 1921. Her journey in the fashion and design sphere spanned several decades, enriched by her unique perspective on style. She famously quipped, “I’m not pretty, and I’ll never be pretty, but it doesn’t matter. I have something much better. I have style.” This encapsulates Apfel's approach to fashion—a fearless embrace of individuality over conventional beauty standards.

Iris Apfel's marriage to Carl Apfel was also significant in her life story. The couple co-owned Old World Weavers, a textile company, and collaborated on various prestigious projects, including several at the White House.

Sadly, Carl Apfel passed away in 2015, and the couple had no children. This personal history adds depth to the understanding of Iris Apfel’s legacy, not just as a fashion icon but as a devoted partner in both life and business.

"More is More & Less is a Bore"

One of the most endearing aspects of Iris Apfel was her capacity to influence and inspire. Her philosophy encouraged countless individuals to embrace their style.

Everybody should find her way. I’m a great one for individuality. I don’t like trends. If you get to learn who you are and what you look like and what you can handle, you’ll know what to do.

Apfel's fearless fashion statements have been celebrated in museum exhibits and even a documentary, "Iris," by Albert Maysles, highlighting her significant impact on both the fashion and design industries.

Apfel's relationship with the arts extended beyond fashion. She donated hundreds of pieces to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, and contributed to creating a gallery at the Museum of Fashion & Lifestyle in Palm Beach, Florida. These contributions illustrate her desire to leave a tangible legacy, showcasing her eclectic style for future generations to enjoy and learn from.

Collaboration was a cornerstone of Iris Apfel's career. Her work with brands such as M.A.C. Cosmetics and Kate Spade, alongside her ventures into releasing diverse products like makeup, eyeglasses, and floor coverings, showcased her versatility and widespread appeal.

Her partnerships were emblematic of her philosophy that style and fashion are distinct, with style being an inherent trait indicative of originality and courage.

The Legacy of an "Accidental Icon"

Reflecting on her time working with Iris Apfel, Lori Sale shared, “Working alongside her was the honor of a lifetime. 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.” This sentiment resonates with many who knew and admired Apfel, recognizing her relentless creativity and work ethic.

Iris Apfel once described herself as the “accidental icon,” a title that became the name of her book. This moniker encapsulates her serendipitous rise to fame in fashion and her humble yet impactful approach to her craft. With nearly 3 million followers on Instagram, Apfel remained connected to her audience until the end, leveraging modern platforms to spread her infectious energy and wisdom.

In summarizing her incredible journey, Iris Apfel’s life was marked by vibrant style, unwavering work ethic, and a fearless embrace of individuality. From her early days in New York City to her acclaimed museum exhibits and documentaries, Iris's legacy in fashion and design is irreplaceable.

Her collaborations, personal philosophy, and contributions to museums underscore her broad influence and timeless appeal in fashion and beyond. Iris Apfel's passage at the age of 102 signifies not just the end of an era but a celebration of a life well-lived, rich with creativity, style, and an indomitable spirit.

About Victor Winston

Victor is a freelance writer and researcher who focuses on national politics, geopolitics, and economics.

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