Iris Apfel: American fashion designer dies at 102

  • By Christy Cooney
  • BBC News

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Iris Apfel: “I think dressing up should be fun”

American designer and fashion icon Iris Apfel has died at the age of 102.

The self-described “elderly star” was known for her distinctive cropped white hair, oversized glasses, bright lipstick and chunky beads.

Apfel reached the height of his fame in the 1980s and '90s, but has been a familiar face at Paris fashion shows for more than half a century.

She also served many celebrity clients including Greta Garbo and Estee Lauder.

His death was announced to his nearly three million followers on Instagram, with a picture of Apfel sporting his famous oversized round glasses.

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Iris Apfel was 97 when she signed a modeling contract with global agency IMG Models, which also represents Gigi Hadid and Karlie Kloss.

American designer Tommy Hilfiger was among those who paid tribute when he hailed Apfel as an “innovator and leader” in the world of textiles and style that “goes down in history”.

“Iris Apfel has become a world-renowned fashion icon thanks to her incredible talent not only as an artist, but also as an influencer,” he said.

“She had a wonderful effect on so many people with her big heart and magical connection with everyone she met.”

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During her career, Apfel co-founded the international textile manufacturing company Old World Weavers in 1950 with her husband Karl, who died in 2015 at the age of 100.

American singer Lenny Kravitz and Dead Lasso actress Hannah Waddingham also paid tribute.

Born into a Jewish family in New York in 1921, Apfel first studied art history and specialized in interior design, particularly textiles.

She worked as an interior designer for decades, including renovation projects at the White House, became a trendsetter in her 80s and a professional model at age 97.

'A Kaleidoscope of Color'

Lori Sale, Apfel's agent, said working with him was “the honor of a lifetime.”

“I will miss her daily calls, always greeted with the familiar question: 'What did I get today?' A testament to his insatiable desire to work,” said Ms. Sale.

“She was a visionary in every sense of the word. She saw the world through a unique lens — adorned with a giant, unique mirror that sat atop her nose.

“Through those lenses, she saw the world as a kaleidoscope of colors, a canvas of shapes and prints.

“Her artistic eye transformed the ordinary into the extraordinary and her ability to blend the unusual with elegance was nothing short of magical.”

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Jean Paul Gaultier and Iris Apfel in New York City in September 2006

In 2014, she was the subject of a documentary called Iris, produced by legendary director Albert Maysles.

Speaking on BBC Newsnight in 2015, she said that “dressing up should be fun” and “an opportunity to play”.

“It's part of my life because I'm a creative person and I think other people need to be a little creative,” she said.

Asked what she thought of age-appropriate clothing, she said, “If you can, it's appropriate.”

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