News Column

At 93, Palm Beach fashion icon Iris Apfel is busier than ever

August 30, 2014

By Staci Sturrock, The Palm Beach Post, Fla.

Aug. 30--Iris Apfel gingerly takes a seat in a crescent-shaped chair suspended over a shallow pool in the Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa's Self-Centered Garden. Behind her, a shirtless male model in leather pants flexes his washboard abs, and the stylists who created this scene slink out of view.

Photographer Thomas Hart Shelby takes aim and click, click, click, that's a wrap on months of preparation and several days of shooting starring more than 20 models of all ages.

And the muse at the center of the swirl? The eternally vibrant Apfel, part-time Palm Beacher and full-time fashion icon who, at the age of 93, shows no signs of fading away.

Celebrated for her eclectic, irreverent style, Apfel's individuality perfectly suits Eau's rebranding efforts, says creative director Ayelet Rahav. "She's authentic. She's not trying to be someone else."

Likewise, Eau's owners don't want their Manalapan hotel mistaken for another. Until last summer, the property operated under the Ritz-Carlton name. Eau is more friendly, more fun than its predecessor, Rahav says.

Adds Apfel, "Palm Beach could use something like this."

And fashion brands have found they could use a true original like Apfel. She and her 100-year-old husband Carl retired from their textile firm, Old World Weavers, in 1992, but in recent years the former interior designer hasn't had time to rest on her Ralph Laurens.

"Iris," an Albert Maysles documentary, will make its world premiere in October at the New York Film Festival, and later this year, when H&M opens the first in its new chain of stores, called "& Other Stories," Apfel will star in its advertising campaign.

"The merchandise is really stunning," says Apfel, who was mixing couture with flea-market finds before it was considered cool. "I couldn't get over it."

Her three-year accessories collaboration with Home Shopping Network will expand to include jackets this fall, and she's preparing another sale of home furnishings and accessories from her personal collection on the shopping website One Kings Lane ("I've been collecting since I was 11 years old, so do the math," she says).

She's negotiating with two different publishers on a book and remains very involved with the University of Texas at Austin's School of Human Ecology: "They made me a professor, so treat me with respect."

Nothing but, at least in the fashion world.

"When people tell me, 'I don't know who she is,' I say, 'Her clothing was on the display at the Met'," says Ashley Mandy, fashion director of the Eau shoot. "She's very inspiring to everyone in fashion."

Apfel, whose over-the-top look was also the subject of a Norton Museum of Art show in 2007, styled and wore all her own outfits for the Eau photos. Think vintage Dior jacket, embroidered Roberto Cavalli jeans, red velvet Ferragamo shoes and, of course, her signature oversized eyeglasses and armfuls of bangles.

Mandy, stepping into many a fashionista's fantasy, visited Apfel's three-bedroom Park Avenue apartment to preview the wardrobe. "It was quite the honor to see everything up close and personal," she said.

Apfel will appear in about half a dozen Eau tableaux, including one in which she stands center frame in a scene that blends elements of "The Last Supper" with "Downton Abbey" and "The Addams Family," and another that has her perched on a baby-blue Vespa.

"We wanted to stretch it and really utilize her in a creative way," says photographer Shelby. "She's game for anything."


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Source: Palm Beach Post (FL)

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