Iris Apfel – A Penchant for Style

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I don’t have any rules.  I’d just be breaking them. So it’s a waste of time.” Says Iris Apfel in “Iris”, a  documentary on her style and penchant for accessorizing that is now playing in theaters. The film is directed by master documentary film maker Albert Maysles, who is best known along with his brother for making such classic films as “Gimme Shelter” and my particular favorite “Grey Gardens”.  Mayles died soon after finishing the film, having brilliantly managed to herald Apfel in perpetuity as a style icon.

It’s interesting to note that Apfel is the most recent woman of a certain age (okay 93 to be exact) to be recognized as a style and fashion icon. She is joining the ranks, which include author Joan Didion, 80, who is featured in Celine ads, singer Joni Mitchell, 71, in Saint Laurent ads and relative youngster, Charlotte  Rampling ,68, promoting lipsticks for NARS.  Apfel was recently prominently featured in a successful advertising campaign for Kate Spade.
As colorful as a Rainbow Lorikeet, Apfel attracts attention wherever she goes because of the daring way that she accessorizes haute couture with a glittering assortment of costume jewelry.  The over the top pieces are uncovered by Apfel at flea markets worlwide. A New Yorker at heart, she discovered many of her finds on the streets of New York. 7th Avenue is one of her main stomping grounds.

“I like to improvise. It’s like I am doing jazz.” She says in the film, clearly bemused by all the attention she has garnered of late.  You’ll love seeing Kanye West and Jen Lyons,  J. Crews’ Creative Director, who have short cameos in the film expressing their adulation to Iris. With bangles cascading down both arms, a tumultuous collection of necklaces strewned around her neck, and eyeclasses covering much of her face, the 5-foot-three star captures the camera at every angle. With her larger than life personality Apfel also projects big on screen, which is good since she’s in almost every scene in the film.

Ten years ago, I was lucky enouch to catch the exhibiton at the Metropolitan Museum called “Rara Avis: Selections from Iris,” that spotlighted 40 of her ensembles.  It was interesting, but dull in comparision with seeing Iris up on the big screen wearing her creations and describing her daredevil approach to mixing and matching her outfits before finally accessorizing the hell out of them.
At one point in the film, Apfel convides to the audience. “Mrs. Loehmann originally said to me ‘You’re not pretty and you’ll never be pretty, but you have something much better. You have style.'”
Run, don’t walk to see “Iris” at a theater near you!



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