A brief history of luxury: Portrait of Iris Apfel through 100 years of style

On August 29, New York fashion legend Iris Apfel celebrated her 100th birthday. This almost historic and colorful figure of the New York fashion scene has influenced many generations with originality and elegance since her debut in the 50s. A look back at a century of style.


Born in Queens in 1921, Iris Barrel has been the face of New York fashion for decades. An only child, her father worked in a glass and mirror company and her mother owned a fashion boutique.


Iris first studied art history at New York University and art at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. As a young woman, she joined the editorial staff of Women’s Wear Daily (WWD). She also worked for Elinor Johnson, an interior designer, and became the assistant to the illustrator Robert Goodman.



Iris Barrel married Carl Apfel in 1948 and together they founded Old World Weavers in 1950. The Apfel‘s company specializes in making clothes from old fabrics. With Old World Weavers, the couple traveled extensively to find unique handcrafted pieces, which they presented to friends and clients at New York social events.


This is how Iris Apfel became known to the New York fashion scene, which snatched up her extravagant and colorful style, but always very elegant and accompanied by oversized accessories. In parallel to the dazzling success of her particular style, Iris devotes herself to another of her passions: interior design.



She collaborated on several interior design and restoration projects, including work with the White House during the terms of nine American presidents: Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan and Clinton.


In 1992, Iris retired from her company, but the great lady did not stop being talked about. In 2005, the famous Metropolitan Museum of New York (MET) devoted an exhibition to her, which quickly became a great success. She then collaborates with many brands like Ralph Lauren or Dries Van Noten, and becomes the muse of Custo Barcelona.

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In 2014, Albert Maysles directed a documentary on the life of Iris Apfel, entitled “Iris“. The New York fashion legend continues to work with several brands including the cosmetics group MAC, which dedicates a line to her, or the car manufacturer Citroen for its DS3 model. Finally, to celebrate her 100th birthday, Iris Apfel has created a collection in collaboration with the fast-fashion giant H&M.




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