Each month I give my verdict on who has shown the world the strongest and most attractive brand. My latest personal brand of the month goes to…
The New Yorker in me has admired Iris Apfel as a New York underground celebrity for years. In the past few months, however, the brand of this eclectic fashion icon has exploded, particularly with the recent release of the documentary Iris, by the late legendary director Albert Maysles (of “Grey Gardens” fame).
Known as a “rare bird of fashion” (also the name of a book about her), Iris has truly become one of the most vivacious personalities in the worlds of fashion and interior design. In addition to having a her own clothing line on the Home Shopping Network, she recently appeared in campaigns for Kate Spade and Coach, and has been the face of MAC Cosmetics. As Iris herself states, “there aren’t many 93-year-old cover girls around.” She has even been named Vogue’s leading ambassador for “the fashion of chance.”
Similar in spirit to my own personal inspiration and late friend Zelda Kaplan, Iris is a nonagenarian style-maker with a powerful sense of energy and authenticity. She believes that real fashion takes confidence and authenticity; it’s about pleasing yourself, not the people around you.
Iris’s eclectic style is also reflective of her life story. More than 50 years ago, she started an interior design firm with her husband Carl Apfel, taking on numerous prestigious projects, including the White House under presidents Truman to Clinton. As passionate globe-trotters, they sourced their unique art and fabrics during their travels. But it wasn’t until Iris was well into her eighties that she became an “It girl”, and then more widely known to the public in 2005, when the Metropolitan Museum of Art opened an exhibit dedicated to her style.
If that wasn’t enough, Iris, at 90, was invited to create a programme for the fashion department at the University of Texas. The school subsequently endowed the programme in her name and made her a visiting professor. Now that her documentary is released, Iris’s life has far from slowed down. In addition to working with fashion students from UT, she is currently designing another handbag collection, alongside a new jewellery collection. She’s also writing new book: all at the ripe age of 93.
For me, Iris exemplifies a confident, differentiated and authentic personal brand, one that shows us that vitality and individuality can be celebrated at any age.