Iris Apfel, the “Rare Bird” of Fashion, Dies at 102

Iris Apfel, the interior design and fashion insider who stepped into the spotlight in her 80s thanks to interest in her maximalist personal style, has died at the age of 102 according to a post on her Instagram account. She passed at her home in Palm Beach, Florida, but no cause of death was given.

Apfel, born in Queens, New York, studied art at both New York University and the University of Wisconsin. She started her career as a copywriter at the fashion bible Women’s Wear Daily, but soon moved into the interior design realm. Two years after marrying her husband, Carl Apfel, in 1948, the couple founded Old World Weavers, a textile firm renowned for its ability to recreate bygone centuries. Famously, Apfel consulted on design restoration projects at the White House under nine different presidents from Truman through Clinton.

But it was Apfel’s flair for decorating herself that eventually turned her into an unlikely celebrity. A 2005 exhibition titled “Rara Avis (Rare Bird): The Irreverent Iris Apfel at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that included numerous items from her personal collection of costume jewelry and garments brought an even larger audience. Albert Maysles’s 2014 documentary Iris put Apfel in front of the camera, and turned her into a star and avatar of the lifelong power of personal style.

Apfel collaborated with brands like Coach, Kate Spade, MAC Cosmetics, Alexis Bittar, and Elizabeth Arden. She designed collections for both H&M and HSN. She also was a cover girl, appearing in Dazed & Confused and L’Officiel Paris. She amassed over 3 million Instagram followers, and just yesterday had celebrated her 102 and a half birthday on the platform.

In a 2016 interview with W, Apfel discussed her most prized possession: “Oh, everything I own, I love,” she said of her collection of clothing and accessories. “I don’t play favorites.” When asked what accessories every woman needs in 2017, she replied with a list: A chunky statement necklace, a bold bangle bracelet, a flashy pin, a large rock, hoop earrings, and a clutch.

Apfel’s husband Carl passed away in 2015.

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