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IRIS APFELD: Style as a matter of character

A person’s character is acquired from early childhood. They say that when Iris Apfeld was three she had a tantrum and started screaming because her mother put a ribbon in her hair and the colour didn’t match the outfit.

Taste is not good or bad, and the most famous fashionistas would be criticized for their extravagance at any normal party that had nothing to do with great fashion.

Apfeld is a renowned interior designer who is likely to be more daring in her choice of clothes, both in design and colour, with timeless Le Corbusier glasses and big colourful ethnic costume jewellery. She is an avant garde person who never goes unnoticed.

Apfel burst onto the international scene in 2005, when the Metropolitan in New York made an exhibition with her flamboyant yet bohemian wardrobe that included Chinese dresses, couture feather coats, necklaces and many different fabrics designed by her.

Iris is an iconic New Yorker who at ninety years still goes to parties, and she is friends with everyone worth knowing in the style and fashion world. As a textile designer her work led her to redecorate the White House for nine presidents: Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Reagan and Clinton. And if Jackie trusted her, she had to have had a very refined taste.

She talks of personal fashion and personal style as the only style religion. Iris says that dresses and clothes are not trivial nonsense, but it can be an art form. She says that throughout history clothes have been a vehicle to explain the character of the wearer. During the Ching Dynasty, for example, the clothes reflected your status in society. People could literally read the clothes like a book, thanks to the colour and the way they were embroidered.

She has got an overwhelming personality and through her statements we can see that her intelligence has been married to her freedom. She believes “holders of taste” are like the police and when it comes to jewellery she prefers not precious stones, and she even said that she likes really big jewellery and her husband is lucky that her favourite stone is the rock crystal.

She also explains that if a crystal is not perfect she likes it much more because as Rodin said “the only thing more beautiful than a beautiful thing is the ruin and decline of that beautiful thing”.

Iris is 90 years young, and decline is a word that she erased from her calendar.

Art historian and philosopher of extravagance, she was the only woman in New York who made a priest chasuble the most desired garment. With wisdom and humour she is an inspiration for people with little energy and personality. On September 1 she turned 91. Congratulations!

There are only a few left of her generation and Anna Piaggi, another of them, died last month leaving an undeniable void.

Taste is trained and achieved by experience, but charisma is part of the personality.



  1. Isabel Inacio / 14 September 2012

    Me encantan estas biografias tan completas de las Grandes Señoras de la MODA.
    Hace tiempo que voy siguiendo tu blog, Lola, y de verdad que es un Lujo poder saber tanto de lo mas It y contado de una forma tan amena a la vez que tan detallada.
    Enhorabuena por tu punto de vista y tu interes en compartir.
    Un abrazo.

    PS. Con tu permiso, lo comparto en mi Club de la Excelencia Barcelona en Facebook

  2. Pilar mandl / 23 September 2012

    Excelente artículo… Como siempre.
    ¡Muchas gracias!


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