Inspiration And Adventure With Iris Apfel
Feeling inspired this morning? I certainly am. Last night thanks to Red Magazine I was lucky enough to see a preview of Iris a new documentary by Albert Maysles on Iris Apfel, along with a Q&A with the inspirational lady herself. At 93 Iris was looking as glamorous as ever, adorned in her signature chunky jewelry and her wonderfully bold, distinctive glasses. She spoke about her initial reaction to the idea of being the feature of a documentary when first approached by Albert Maysles, which was not interested! But after speaking to friends and being called out by Linda Fargo who said "You have a nerve! I mean, people would drop dead to have Albert even take a still photograph of them, and you’re turning him down?’" Albert then called again and she was invited to meet them in the studio in Harlem - once meeting Albert and all the staff they all fell in love and she decided to go for it. At the time she thought "who would want to see a documentary about me? I have no ego problems, and I don’t have anything to sell, so, you know. . . ."
The documentary is a wonderful insight into Iris’s world and her positive, fun filled almost child like approach to life. Iris and her husband Carl are described by friends and family in the film as two big kids when discussing their fun filled, quirky surroundings in their homes and their outlook on life, Christmas decorations remain up for 6 months of the year sometimes - why not? in their world anything is possible.
Iris likes to improvise, for her getting dressed is a creative act, in her words like playing jazz. She was well into her eighties when she became an It girl, it wasn’t until a 2005 exhibition at the Costume Institute that she became publicly known. But for years before her iconic style had always stirred quite a following.
Iris explains "nothing I ever did I expected to do, it just kind of happened."
She worked on various interior design projects and on one particular project she had a fabric design in mind but couldn’t find the fabric anywhere, this led to her and her husband Carl founding Old World Weavers, an interior design firm that decorated the White House under presidents Truman to Clinton. To source the unique arts and fabrics they travelled widely, heading off twice a year, every year. Throughout the film Carl reminisces fondly on Iris’s haggling skills and strong relationships built with dealers all over the world. Over the years her husband Carl has collected wonderful footage of Iris’s fun nature and adventurous approach to life, capturing her interactions with quirky characters all over the world.
They retired in 1992 but Iris has continued to remain constantly busy taking up to 50 phone calls a day, even at the age of 93. She is a professor at the University of Texas, which led on from her impatience with banality in fashion, she feels sad that everybody these days look the same and are being robbed of their imaginations. In her role at the University she sees the importance in exposing kids to the fact that fashion is not just being a red-carpet designer - which they all dream of or being a merchandise man. She put together a program where she exposes them to important jobs in licensing, styling and back of museum work. Also once a year they have a contest and the winners get the chance to go to New York where Iris takes them around for an intensive week, where they learn so much and are exposed to so much more in the fashion world.
If that wasn’t enough she is working on another handbag collection, another jewelry collection and she is starting a new book - Musings, things that pop into her head, little essays, and one-liners. Her great humor is beautifully evident throughout the documentary with classic one liners - when haggling for a hand bag in Harlem and after been told it took a whole day to make she was quick off the mark to tell them "whoever it was, was too slow!’"
The documentary is a true insight into a wonderful woman, inspired by life and who is living life to the full, her adventurous, quirky nature is expressed through her flamboyant fashion style. Real fashion isn’t about pleasing the people around you, she says, but about pleasing yourself: “It’s better to be happy than to be well-dressed.” Iris believes in dressing yourself up, making yourself happy, and then you make other people happy. In her words "You can’t be interesting if you’re not interested." She says 'I'm always challenging myself. I always want to do better...I think that every day I don't learn something is a bad day." Life is about living and she certainly shows us how to do this. Be sure to watch the wonderful Iris and feel inspired.