I was a little, okay, a lot, late to watching the documentary Iris, about the legendary interior decorator and fashion collector extraordinaire, Iris Apfel. It took me mere minutes to fall in love with this eccentric, wise and stylish woman along with her utterly charming husband Carl.
It was in the early fifties when, Iris, an interior designer, noticed a void in unique well crafted fabrics. Her and her husband filled that void with their textile firm, Old World Weavers, which they ran until selling the company in 1992. With the creation of OWW her fame within the design world soared, eventually leading her to the White House where she took part in several design restoration projects for nine presidents: Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton.
With the success of their business, the couple began traveling all over the world where Apfel began collecting non-Western, artisanal clothes. Her collection now fills multiple rooms with double-height clothing racks in her New York apartment, with plenty more housed in her Palm Beach place, and is considered one of the top three fashion collections in the world. Yet the film and her collection are not a story about hoarding, but one about creativity and how a free spirit continues to inspire. Curiosity and a sense of humor are Iris’ two must have’s in her life which clearly come across in her outlandish, idiosyncratic and highly chic style. (A typical Apfel outfit comprises clanging armfuls of bracelets, multiple layers of colourful, chunky beads, and her trademark oversized, owlish spectacles.)
In September 2005, The Costume Institute, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York, premiered an exhibition about Iris Apfel’s style entitled Rara Avis (Rare Bird): The Irreverent Iris Apfel. What I would give to be able to lay my eyes on that exhibit! The best reason I know for inventing time travel. At least there is this coffee table book — Rare Bird of Fashion: The Irreverent Iris Apfel.
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