Iris Apfel Is 100 — And She's Not Slowing Down in the Slightest
Legendary style icon Iris Apfel, who turns 100 this week, is living proof that you're only as old as you feel. "Everything about turning 100 is fantastic, but I really do believe that I'm still the world's oldest teenager," she jokes. The secret to her youthful joie de vivre? Equal parts passion and drive.
After starting the fabric house Old World Weavers in 1950 with her late husband Carl, Apfel worked for decades as an interior designer, even helping with décor and restoration projects at the White House for nine different presidents. While she always had impeccable personal style and an eye for fashion, the industry didn't officially come calling until much later. "My first big job in fashion came when I was 84, so as cliché as it is, age really is just a number to me," she says. "But being passionate about my projects and putting my heart and soul into them has kept me young. That's why I'll never stop working."
In her nineties alone, Apfel has signed with the global modeling agency IMG, released an autobiographical coloring book and a memoir, and debuted a fashion capsule collection with HSN and a home collection with Grandin Road. And now, to mark her milestone birthday, she teamed up with glasses brand Zenni to design the Iris Apfel Zentennial Collection, which features a colorful selection of the big, bold frames that have become her signature accessory.
For InStyle's August "Badass Women" issue, we caught up with Apfel to talk about her milestone birthday, what inspires her, and why she doesn't plan to slow down anytime soon.
You were recently named one of InStyle's Badass 50. What makes a badass woman to you?
Oh, that's easy. It's confidence! Anybody who embraces who they are in their style, career, really any aspect of their life is a badass. I believe the old adage — you only fail if you don't try. Taking any leap, whether it's mastering a new skill, starting a new job, or embarking on an exciting new adventure, requires confidence.
You also turn 100 on August 29 — how will you mark the occasion?
People know glasses have been a signature accessory of mine for a long, long time, so in celebration of my 100th year around the sun, I found a fabulous eyewear brand to partner with. When I met Zenni and saw their glasses, I immediately fell in love. Zenni is about everyone, regardless of background or age, finding their own personal style and having fun with eyewear, and I think that's something to celebrate.
What do you hope people take away from your new glasses collection?
It's for anyone who strives to stand out from the crowd – and I think that should be everyone. I hope it inspires others to embrace their true selves, have fun and take risks with their style choices. I didn't shy away from color, like red and turquoise, and there are plenty of statement-making frames that will get you noticed! Ultimately, it celebrates self-expression and individuality, which I live my own life by.
What keeps you motivated to always be creating?
I've traveled the world, which has always inspired my choices. In my designs, you'll see my love for architecture, décor, and bold colorways and patterns coming through. You'll even see design motifs drawn from the treasures I've collected at bazaars and flea markets from around the globe. I keep pushing myself creatively because it keeps life fresh and fun, and it's good for me. I also love every single day to be different — and that only happens when you say yes to opportunities, and keep experimenting and being curious.
Is there one piece of style advice that you always follow?
Style is not about spending a lot of money. It's not about what or who you wear, but how you feel when wearing something. Don't be afraid to be bold and try something new. Also, an outfit isn't complete without a signature accessory — or many — to show off your individuality. Mine are glasses. The bigger and brighter, the better!
What would you still like to accomplish?
I don't plan to slow down anytime soon. I'm constantly looking for new ways to express my personal style, improvise and take chances. This year I've unveiled new partnerships, so I can share my style with others, everything from home décor to eyewear, and there are more in the works! I plan to keep challenging myself and opening new doors in the years ahead.
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Out of everything you have done, what are you proudest of?
In everything I've done, I've stayed true to myself. I chose to celebrate my individuality every day — and I think that's badass. I'm proud of my career and everything I've accomplished, especially in my nineties, and I'm excited about what the future holds. Looking forward and still pursuing adventures at the age of 100? I think that's pretty badass too.
For more stories like this, pick up the September 2021 issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download now.
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