Meet the 93-year-old who's cooler than your coolest friend.
August 21, 2015
Meet Iris Apfel, the kind of stylish, straight-talking, bespectacled nonagenarian everyone wishes was their grandmother. The New York cult figure has stood out from the crowd across decades of trends, and dabbled in everything from art to interior design. If she sounds much cooler than most people a quarter of her age, well, that's because she is.
The 93-year-old's resume speaks for itself, given that she has spent over 75 years in fashion traversing everything from working at Women's Wear Daily to setting up her own textile design firm with her husband to still lecturing about style today; however, it is her personality and outlook, rather than her achievements, that shine brightest. That she says she was probably the first woman to wear jeans speaks to her pioneering spirit. That she notes that she's more excited about dressing up for parties than actually going to parties does as well.
Indeed, the ever-flamboyant Apfel remains an individual at a time when such a term has started to lose its meaning, as she herself observes when musing over the common correlation between black attire and fashion. Always decked out in rows of couture costume jewellery and never seen in an outfit that could be classed as boring or bland, she advises that she approaches dressing a bit like jazz — with a little bit of this and a little bit of that. It shows.
So bounces forward a loving portrait of blazing your own path — and never compromising for or caring about the opinions of others — as given perhaps the strongest living example. From the moment Apfel graces the screen and thrusts her oversized pearls of wisdom upon the audience, it is immediately apparent why she's the subject of the documentary that shares her name. From the moment the film displays its frame, the affection, energy and insight filmmaker Albert Maysles channels is also evident, as is his making of the movie in the style befitting his subject.
Alas, there is a lone sad note to the engaging ode, despite the slight but sweet exploration that comprises the documentary's running time. The joy and vivacity that Apfel exudes on screen, fierce and frank until the last moment, is balanced by the knowledge of the film's director. The great Maysles, noted for crafting the iconic Grey Gardens and Gimme Shelter, passed away at the age of 88 in early 2015, with this his penultimate effort. Accordingly, Iris actually pays tribute to two great trailblazers and showcases what both do best: pave their own way and create their own stories through their chosen mediums of fashion and film.
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