Iris Apfel: A Rare Bird Indeed

I couldn’t sleep.

…so I began to surf Netflix to find something to watch. Just enough to entertain my sleepy yet alert eyes, but lighthearted enough to lull me into a much-needed slumber. That is when I discovered Iris, a documentary on Iris Apfel who has been crowned “The Rare Bird of Fashion”. I was mesmerized the moment this 95-year old emerges onto the opening scene with her distinctively New York accent, strikingly silver hair with hints of purple. Effortlessly, she looks intently at the camera with her brilliant eyes shining behind her trademark oval shaped specs.

Likening the daily routine of selecting her wardrobe to a jazz composition, and if you are a fan like I am, you can relate to her metaphor; jazz tends to have sudden, and unpredictable crescendos which decline into delicate, soft scales. Her over sized, exotic accouterments overlap elaborate tops oftentimes paired with denim. Smoking slippers of her own design collaboration with Home Shopping Network, HSN don her feet. She marries Park Avenue with Canal street; mixing opulence with frugality.

“I like individuality. So loss these days. So much sameness. Everything is homogenized, I hate it,” she laments. As an esteemed collector of all things strange yet beautiful, the Rara Avis (French for Rare Bird) expresses her adoration for the shopping experience, which she admits enjoyment more so than dressing herself . This fashion darling began her career as an interior designing tycoon with a enterprise she started with her now late husband, Carl Apfel, called World Weavers. They traveled worldwide seeking inspiration to create historical reproductions of beautifully crafted fabrics for international museums, the White House, and other political architecture.

While most people her age, and even younger retire, she continues her labor of love featuring in magazine photo shoots, attending Fashion Week, offering lectures and interviews, and consulting with museums who commemorate many of her vestments into exhibitions. The way she merges art, fashion and interior design, is instinctual. Although she has embraced that she is not considered an industry’s beauty standard, Iris epitomizes refinement because she intuitively identifies it in most things people may overlook or dismiss as inelegant.

I appreciate how she literally allowed us a glimpse into her personal life, past, present and future. She has obvious style, which Iris captures in great detail, in so little time.