Afternoon Tea with
New York Icon Iris Apfel

In a time when true individualism and style run scarce, Iris Apfel is an icon par excellence. An It-girl in her own right, the 93-year-old New Yorker has paved a special legacy powered by an unconventional personal aesthetic, work ethic, and directional outlook on life. Her eccentric, idiosyncratic outfits have been showcased at the MET’s Costume Institute to popular acclaim. MAC Cosmetics and the Home Shopping Network have collaborated with Iris on her own lines of makeup and accessories, respectively. And this season alone, she’s graced top campaigns for the likes of Alexis Bittar and Kate Spade.

This sharp-witted, white-haired maven is a multi-faceted human of intrigue — precisely why she’s the star of the late documentarian Albert Maysles’ fashion film, “Iris.” In the newly released feature, we see the woman behind the icon: glimpses of her business ventures, her love-filled marriage, all the bits and pieces of her irreverently glamorous (and highly cluttered!) world. The WILD had the pleasure of meeting Iris at Manhattan’s Carlyle Hotel for afternoon tea. Amongst an intimate group of attendees, we absorbed her pearls of wisdom on life, style, today’s youth, social media, and what she really thinks of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.

Iris Apfel at Manhattan’s Carlyle Hotel last week

67 ½ years and counting

People fall down in shock because some marriages these days don’t seem to last 45 minutes!

It’s about the journey

I find an appalling lack of curiosity. It doesn’t take any effort. A lot of young people think if they press a button, they’ll get an answer—but that’s not curiosity in my book. Curiosity implies involving yourself in the process. The result is not enough.

3Iris and husband Carl Apfel in their New York apartment

Life beyond fashion

People who just like fashion are pretty dopey. Fashion is a lovely thing and everyone should think about it, but people shouldn’t make it a life’s work. You take it seriously up to a point but I don’t think it should dominate your life.

Vintage treasure hunting

Vintage clothes are certainly superior to contemporary clothes in the way they’re made and the fabric content and the whole concept. You can buy a beautiful vintage evening gown for some hundreds of dollars, and you pay thousands and thousands in a shop and you don’t get the same quality fabric, the same fit, the same workmanship. I mean, there is plenty of garbage in the vintage market so you have to be careful on what you’re buying. Just because it’s vintage doesn’t make it wonderful.

2Iris at home amongst her eclectic furniture and décor

Meeting Albert Maysles on the phone

He called and wanted to do a documentary, and I wasn’t interested in the beginning. Then my friends all chastised me, told me that I was being very foolish, and that people would kill to have Albert just take a photo of them, and how could I pass over this opportunity. I am very happy I did it. It was a very pleasurable experience. He was a gentle man to deal with.

Doing a documentary on blind faith

I didn’t think I was very well-known. Who would want to see a documentary about me? I have nothing to sell, I have no ego problems, I thought it would be a big waste of time. What I knew of Albert’s work was many of his subjects were a lot more gritty. I didn’t know how I would fit into this picture. There was no script and no outline. I had no idea what to expect. Zilch.

6Iris and the late documentarian Albert Maysles

Youth and their “uniform” dressing

It’s looks like they all are going to the same school or something. Maybe that makes them all feel comfortable. Dressing, particularly when you’re young, you can get all these wonderful knockoffs that are fit for your body. If you’re old and heavy and whatnot, it’s very difficult. You can take some chances! You can go to H&M and experiment and it’s great fun and a creative experience. But if it doesn’t suit you and you don’t want to do it, then you know, don’t do it. If everybody wants to look alike that’s fine. It’s fine with me, I don’t like it but I am not going to pass judgement.

A world before Tom Ford

Students I’ve talked to think the world began with Tom Ford. They’ve no idea who were the great people who came before. Many schools don’t teach history and many fashion schools don’t teach the history of fashion. You have to know the past to know what’ll happen in the future. You have to build on it. Fashion is a reflection of everything in that period. It’s a reflection of history, politics, the sociology, the psychology, and the economics of the time. History should be all part of it.

Sexy backward

Tom Ford’s idea of a sexy-looking babe was that of a 14-year-old boy. It wasn’t very sophisticated. I think things should be more mysterious and not so obvious. But evidently it went over and was a great force in the market. Everybody liked to buy as little cloth as possible and hangout as much as possible. I certainly didn’t think it was very pretty. If you’re a gorgeous model, that’s one thing, but the average person can’t look like that.

4Iris with her signature black rounded frames and many necklaces

 Un-social media

Who cares who you are sleeping with, or what you had for breakfast, or what you think about something. I could care less.

Oh, Kanye

I was in shock and I don’t watch the Internet so I had no idea they posted me with Kanye. I don’t know anything about him. I met him at the thing and he was very pleasant. Someone just told me the other day he designed clothes. That’s what I mean, everyone is a designer. You can’t be a designer. What does he know about designing clothes? It’s OK if he wants to design, it’s none of my business.

Another Kim K cover

I think it’s kind of sad that Anna Wintour would put Kim Kardashian on the cover of Vogue. They want to be current and hip and that is all well and good, but these people are suppose to be arbiters of taste and keep the flame going. Young people just think they’re icons, and they emulate them, but their lifestyle and everything isn’t the greatest.

Iris will be released in theaters April 29 in the USA by Magnolia Pictures

Pearls of Wisdom

Women need to learn to be themselves. Everyone is not exactly alike and if people have no creative outlet, they can get a creative outlet in dressing. If they want to work hard a little bit. They can have some fun with it.


Me? I don’t have any WILD wishes, I am too old.


text by: Nicole Zane

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