Iris Apfel: American fashion designer dies at the age of 102

  • Written by Christy Cooney
  • BBC News

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Iris Apfel: “I believe dressing up should be fun.”

American fashion designer and fashion icon Iris Apfel has died at the age of 102.

The self-described “aging star” was known for her signature short white hair, large glasses, bright lipstick, and thick beads.

Apfel reached the height of her fame in the 1980s and 1990s, but she has been a familiar face at Paris fashion shows for more than half a century.

She has also served a range of celebrity clients, including Greta Garbo and Estée Lauder.

Her death was announced to her nearly three million Instagram followers, with a photo of Apfel wearing her famous big round glasses.

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Iris Apfel was 97 when she signed a modeling contract with global agency IMG Models, which also represents Gigi Hadid and Karlie Kloss.

American designer Tommy Hilfiger was among those who praised Apfel as an “innovator and pioneer” in the world of textiles and style, who will “go down in history.”

“Iris Apfel has become a world-famous fashion icon because of her incredible talent not only as an artist, but as an influencer,” he said.

“She had an amazing impact on so many people with her big heart and magic touch with everyone she met.”

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During her career, Apfel founded the international textile manufacturer Old World Weavers in 1950 alongside her husband Karl, who died in 2015 at the age of 100.

American singer Lenny Kravitz and actress Ted Lasso also paid tribute to Hannah Waddingham.

Born to a Jewish family in New York in 1921, Apfel originally studied art history and specialized in interior design, especially textiles.

She worked as an interior designer for decades, including restoration projects at the White House, before becoming a fashion trendsetter in her 80s and a professional model at 97.

“A kaleidoscope of colours”

Abbeville's agent, Lori Sell, said working alongside her had been “the honor of a lifetime.”

“I will miss her daily calls, always greeted with the familiar question: ‘What do you have for me today?’ It is a testament to her insatiable desire to work,” Ms. Seale said.

“She was a visionary in every sense of the word. She saw the world through a unique lens — one adorned with giant, distinctive glasses that sat atop her nose.

“Through those lenses, she saw the world as a kaleidoscope of colors, a palette of patterns and prints.

“Her artistic eye transformed the ordinary into the extraordinary, and her ability to mix the unconventional with the elegant was nothing short of magical.”

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Jean Paul Gaultier and Iris Apfel in New York City in September 2006

In 2014, she was the subject of a documentary called “Iris”, directed by acclaimed director Albert Maysles.

Speaking to BBC Newsnight in 2015, she said she believed “dressing up should be fun” and was “an opportunity to play”.

“It's part of my life because I'm a creative person and I think others should indulge in a little creativity,” she said.

When asked what she thought of the idea of ​​dressing age-appropriately, she said: “If you can wear it, it's appropriate.”

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