Iris Apfel – The 101 Year-Old Fashion Icon

Have you been looking for an inspirational woman who has continuously rocked her Third Age?

Look no further than Iris Apfel!

A self-proclaimed “geriatric starlet”, Iris has been inspiring all generations for decades now. One of the most vivacious personalities in fashion and textiles, Iris has continued to rock her career at every age.

Iris’s Early Life

Born in Queens in 1921, Iris grew up exploring antique shops in New York City and playing with fabric scraps her grandmother would give her.

These early activities helped her develop a keen eye for mixing textures, patterns, and styles to marvelous, dramatic effect.

Building an Illustrious Career

In the late 1940s, Iris met her late husband Carl (who lived to be 100 himself). Shortly after their marriage, they started their business Old World Weavers. 

A textile business that specialized in recreating vintage textiles, the Apfels soon found themselves in the White House. Old World Weavers and the Apfels ended up working with 9 different presidents, Apfel earned the nicknames “First Lady of Fabric” and “Our Lady of the Cloth.”

As their business grew, they traveled the globe, searching for different and unique textures and building up their interior design firm as well.

A Unique Style that Inspired an Exhibit and a Documentary

In 2005, Apfel’s celebrity reached new heights when she was featured in an exhibition from the Met Costume Institute. Titled Rara Avis: Selections from the Iris Apfel Collection, they displayed her amazing collection of costume jewelry, unique and beautiful clothes, and her signature tortoiseshell glasses.

In 2015, she reached even further outside of fashion circles with a documentary based on her life – Iris – premiered.

From there, the “geriatric starlet” became a Barbie doll in 2018, signed a modeling contract in 2019 with IMG, appeared in numerous brand campaigns, and even released partnership designers with Zenni Optical and H&M.

Never Retiring

While Iris lost her husband and business partner back in 2015, she vows to never retire.

Loving her career and what she can do with it (beyond her own personal gain), Iris recently told the Today Show that her view on retirement is that it’s a fate worse than death.

“Oh, I love to work. It’s fun because I enjoy it,” Apfel stated. “And then I can help people. I can give employment. People tell me I inspire them. So many good things come out of it. I think retiring at any age is a fate worse than death. Just because a number comes up doesn’t mean you have to stop.”

While we don’t totally agree with Iris, we know that if we love our work that a career may never actually feel like work either.

Iris is a true inspiration for living life to its fullest and a perfect example of the health and longevity benefits of living resiliently.