Renowned Style Pioneer and Designer Iris Apfel Passes Away at 102, Leaving a Vibrant Legacy

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Renowned Style Pioneer and Designer Iris Apfel Passes Away at 102, Leaving a Vibrant Legacy

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Iris Apfel, an esteemed interior and fashion designer, as well as a style icon, departed this world at the age of 102 on March 1, at her residence in Palm Beach, Florida. Recognized for her exuberant approach to life and her lively, colorful fashion choices, Apfel left an indelible mark that resonated across generations.

Apfel’s distinctive personal style, characterized by her oversized glasses and fearless embrace of vibrant colors, captured the attention of admirers. In 2019, at the remarkable age of 97, she inked a modeling contract with ING, showcasing her enduring influence in the world of fashion. Born in Astoria, Queens, in 1921, Apfel was the only child of Samuel and Sadye Barrel. Samuel managed the family’s glass and mirror business, while Sadye owned a fashion boutique.

Even in her youth, Apfel displayed a keen interest in fashion. Taking the subway to Manhattan, she spent countless hours exploring antique shops in Greenwich Village. During this period, she began curating her iconic jewelry collection, later showcased at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The museum’s Costume Institute honored Apfel with the 2005 exhibition, “Rara Avis: The Irreverent Iris Apfel,” featuring mannequins adorned in her distinctive fashion and accessories collection—a groundbreaking tribute to a living fashion icon.

Despite her age, Apfel’s passion for fashion never waned. Her global travels with her husband influenced her style, blending non-Western and artisanal designs into her wardrobe. Numerous brands sought her design expertise, including Mattel, which created a Barbie in her likeness in 2018, along with two “Styled by Iris Apfel” dolls.

In 2022, at the age of 100, Apfel collaborated with H&M on a clothing line and launched a capsule collection with British beauty brand Ciaté London. At her 100th birthday celebration, she candidly shared with People Magazine that taking a break from work was not in her plans.

Apfel’s dear friend Bruce Sutka revealed that she will be laid to rest beside her husband Carl at Beth David Cemetery in Elmont, New York. The couple, icons in their own right, enjoyed a 67-year marriage and co-founded Old World Weavers in 1950, specializing in replicating fabrics from the 17th to the 19th century. The firm provided fabrics for the White House through nine presidencies and continued under their guidance until their retirement in 1992.

From the acclaimed 2014 documentary “Iris” to a children’s book recounting her life and her 2018 publication “Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon,” there are numerous ways to commemorate and celebrate Apfel’s enduring legacy. Her profound love for design and zest for life serve as a poignant reminder to cherish every moment and remain true to oneself throughout the journey of aging.


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