Celebrating the Legacy of Fashion Icon Iris Apfel

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Iris Apfel, a name synonymous with vibrant colours, eccentric statements, and an unwavering spirit of individuality, left an indelible mark on the world of fashion. This extraordinary woman, who passed away in March 2024 at the age of 102, wasn’t just a fashion icon; she was a symbol of self-expression, creativity, and living life on your terms.

Iris Apfel
Celebrating the Legacy of Fashion Icon Iris Apfel

The Life Irs Apfel

Born Iris Barrel in 1921, Apfel’s journey towards fashion icon status wasn’t a conventional one. After studying art history at New York University, she worked in various creative fields, including interior design and textiles. Her marriage to businessman Carl Apfel in 1948 led them to establish Old World Weavers, a textile firm specializing in historic fabric reproductions. This experience honed Apfel’s keen eye for detail and appreciation for different cultures and textures, which would later translate into her unique style.


Iris Apfel’s path to fashion icon wasn’t typical. Born Iris Barrel in 1921, she studied art history and then worked in creative fields like interior design and textiles. Marrying Carl Apfel in 1948, they founded Old World Weavers, a company specializing in recreating historical fabrics. This experience sharpened her eye for detail and appreciation for diverse cultures and textures, which later became hallmarks of her unique fashion sense.

The Birth of a Fashion Icon

But it was in her later years, well into her 60s and 70s, that Apfel truly began to capture the world’s attention with her bold fashion choices. She embraced an explosion of colours, patterns, and textures, fearlessly mixing vintage finds with high-end pieces and oversized jewellery. Her signature round glasses, a constant companion, became as iconic as her flamboyant style.

More Than Just Fashion: Challenging Ageism and Inspiring Confidence

However, Apfel’s significance transcended mere fashion trends. She challenged the notion that personal style has an expiration date. In a world obsessed with youth and conformity, Apfel championed the beauty and wisdom of ageing, proving that style has no age limit. She became a role model for countless women, inspiring them to embrace their individuality and express themselves confidently at any stage of life.

From Niche to Mainstream: A Cultural Icon Emerges

Apfel’s impact wasn’t confined to a niche audience. Her unique style caught the attention of the fashion world. In 2005, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute held an exhibition titled “Rara Avis: Selections from the Iris Apfel Collection,” showcasing her collection of clothing and jewellery. This unprecedented exhibition cemented Apfel’s status as a cultural icon and fashion inspiration.

Beyond Fashion: A Voice for Advocacy

Beyond fashion, Apfel used her platform to advocate for causes close to her heart. She was a vocal supporter of the arts, education, and LGBTQ+ rights. Her bold personality and unwavering optimism resonated with people from all walks of life, making her a true cultural icon.

The Enduring Legacy of Iris Apfel

While Iris Apfel may be gone, her legacy lives on. Her vibrant spirit, audacious style, and unwavering belief in self-expression continue to inspire generations. She showed the world that fashion is not just about following trends; it’s about embracing your individuality, celebrating your unique story, and expressing yourself with confidence.

Did Iris Apfel Have Children?

Iris Apfel did not have children. She and her husband, Carl Apfel, who passed away in 2015, made a conscious decision not to have children. This decision was partly due to the demands of their work, which involved frequent travel for sourcing materials. Additionally, Iris expressed a desire not to rely on nannies to raise their potential children. While not having children was a personal choice, it allowed them to dedicate themselves to their careers and pursue their passions fully.


Iris Apfel’s life serves as a powerful reminder that there is no age limit to creativity, self-expression, and living life to the fullest. In her own words, “Don’t be boring, and always be daring!” This is a message that continues to resonate with fashion lovers and individuals seeking to embrace their unique voices in the world.