Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Homage to Iris Apfel

"Some say, take one off. I say, put one on!"
-Iris Apfel

Unless you've been living on Mars for the past decade, you've probably heard of Iris Apfel, especially if you're interested in fashion. She has been the subject of a documentary, a one-woman show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Peabody Museum, the Palm Beach Museum of Art...well, I could go on and on. Magazines around the world from Germany to Hong Kong have devoted articles in their Style Section to Mrs. Apfel's collection of clothes and accessories, and a coffee-table size book has been published illustrating her particular style. There has never been anyone quite like Iris....and it's doubtful there ever will be!
 Iris, wearing her trade-mark round eyeglasses.

Iris Apfel - now in her mid-nineties! - rose to fashion fame in 2005 when the Metropolitan Museum of Art mounted an exhibition featuring her extraordinary collection of couture clothes, along with her off-beat, ethnic jewelry, a large portion of which she purchased from souks in Morocco, India and Egypt during her decades of travel.

But Iris wasn't your average upper-class tourist exploring foreign lands. She was hard at work searching out top-notch weavers for her (and her late-husband, Carl's) business....Old World Weavers. Almost as soon as it was launched, OWW became the source for quality fabrics for interior designers. It remains so to this day, although the Apfels sold it years ago to Stark. 

Below, some photographs from Eric Boman's book, "Rare Bird of Fashion."

  1.  Hat, Indian, late 19th century. Wool, amber, coral, turquoise and silver.
  2.  Neck ornament, Indian, early 20th century. Wool silver, amber, coral, turquoise and wood.
  3. Necklaces on bottom, Chinese, late 19th century. Silver and coral.

  1.  Jumpsuit, Geoffrey Beene, 1992/1993.
  2.  "Scorpion" brooch, Native American, 1980s. Silver and turquoise.
  3. Belt, Native American, 1980s. Silver and turquoise.
  4. Cuff bracelet, Italian, 1970s. Turquoise ceramic and silver plate.

  1. Jacket, Roberto Cavalli, 2002. Blue cotton denim, multicolored embroidery.
  2. Jeans, American, 1990s.
  3. Clip, Unknown, 1930s. 

Called “Rara Avis”, the exhibit at the Met was actually a last-minute show after a planned exhibition had fallen through. There was very little in the way of promotion, mostly word-of-mouth. But “Rara Avis” was a dynamic success. A heavily illustrated book by Eric Bowman with an introduction by Met curator Harold Koda soon followed.

Mrs. Apfel continues to find joy in self-presentation. Her ceaseless delight is captured in the documentary “Iris” by the late film maker, Albert Maysles (rhymes with hazels), which is now available for viewing on Netflix. The documentary follows Iris as she does what she enjoys doing most....shopping, talking with people, and dressing up to go out for the evening.  

She doesn't think of herself as a 'style icon'. As she points out, "Every morning we all have to get up, get dressed and face the world. Why not put some effort into it and have fun!"

After 60 years as a working woman, I think Iris Apfel has earned her days of fun. I just hope I'll have that kind of energy when I'm in my 90s - should I be fortunate to live that long.

  1. Jacket, European flea market find.
  2. Trousers, burgundy and brown leather, hand-stained by Karl Springer.
  3. Necklace, Chinese Minority, late 19th century.
  4. Belt, Central Asian, late 19th century. Metal.
  5. Cuff  bracelets, India late 19th century. Silver.

  1. Jacket, Lanvin haute couture, circa 1989.
  2. Necklaces, Publo and Navajo, 1930s-1950s. Silver and turquoise.
  3. Cuff bracelets, Native American, early 1970s. Silver, turquoise, leather.
  4. Belt, Navajo, 1940s. Silver, turquoise, leather.

  1. Bangles, American, 1920s-1940s. Bakelite.
  2. Necklace, American, 1930s. "Marblette" Bakelite sample chips.

  1. Jacket, Bill Blass, 1984. White, red, green and navy wool.
  2. Skirt, Hopi, circa 2000. White cotton canvas and red suede.
  3. Neck scarf, American 1990s. Black Tibetan lamb.
  4. Necklace, American, 1930s. Black and red Bakelite beads.

  1. Tunic, Gianfranco Ferre, 1994. Brown nutria and wool knit.
  2. Necklaces, European, late 1970s. Baltic amber and silver.
  3. Bangles, Various, 20th century. Wood, amber and acrylic.
  4. Ring, European, 1990. Baltic amber and wood.  


  1. Coat, Nina Ricci haute couture, 1984. Gray, black and white mohair.
  2. Necklaces and bracelet, Angela Caputi Giugiu, 1990s. Black and gray acrylic.

I'm a minimalist in most things, from the way I've styled my home to the way I dress, always preferring simple, stream-lined clothes more suited to my stature and physical shape. Adding one great-looking statement piece is the way I ramp up the outfit. Layers of necklaces and bracelets up to my elbows was something I had never tried. 

Until now!

After watching the film, "Iris" and pouring over "Rare Bird of Fashion...", I thought, "Oh heck, why not have some fun? Break out of the rut and try something different."

So, after pawing through my closet and rummaging through dresser drawers, here's my homage to Iris.
(The photos below feature "Audrey Designs", my line of Irish linen jackets and one-of-a-kind necklaces.)

  1. Jacket, Audrey Designs. Turquoise Irish linen.
  2. Long drop necklace, Audrey Designs. Black and white agate.
  3. Mixed necklace, 2010. Black and white ceramic beads.
  4. Long necklace, 2010. Black silk wrapped around wood beads. 
  5. Bangle, 2013. Black and white zebra design on metal.

  1. Top necklace, Audrey Designs. 2015. Light-blue Amazonite, carved bone, golden amber.
  2. Long necklace, Audrey Designs. 2015. Light-blue Amazonite, patinated copper, sterling silver chain.
  3. Carved gourd shoulder bag. 2001. American. Designer unknown.

  1. Jacket, Black Irish linen. 2015. AUDREY Designs.
  2. Brooch, Silver Maltese cross. Unknown. Personal collection.
  3. Necklace, Faux turquoise and silver necklace, Morocco. AUDREY Designs.
  4. Necklace, Hand-wrought silver links, Guatamala. 1982. Personal collection.
  5. Necklace, Turquoise beads, China. 1995. Personal collection.
  6. Bracelet, Aluminum, 2015. India. Personal collection.
  1. Jacket, Black Irish linen. 2015. AUDREY Designs. 
  2. Necklace, Amber and silver. Morocco, AUDREY Designs.
  3. Necklace, Amber, agate and silver. Morocco. AUDREY Designs.
  4. Necklace, Amber and silver, Late-19th century. India. Personal collections.

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