The Sensational Life of Iris Apfel


In a previous blog post I mentioned that I love the hands of sculptor Louise Bourgeois. They are weathered and dimpled like a prune, full of spots and marks of victory and failure. It’s why I love them. It means that she tried, and she lived — she used all that she had; herself and life itself. (Louise was prolific and dedicated to her work until her death at 98 years old.) Louise is no longer with us in physical form, but her legacy and lessons live on.

I remember having a conversation with my mom, about whether or not Mom should return to school and become an interior designer. At the time she thought it was a crazy idea. Mom exclaimed, “I’m too old. By the time I finish I’ll be 44!” In my mind, it was a fabulous fresh new start for her. It was a wonderful idea. In her mind, she felt she needed to be more established. Being in your 40s is the time to show what you’ve accomplished, not what you’ve just started. But today she thinks differently. It’s over 20 years later, and she can see the youth and potential in any age.

Last week my mom and I went to see the new documentary called IRIS. It’s about the celebrated New York fashion-world starlet named Iris Apfel (formerly known as an A-List interior designer). I’m sure you’ve seen her before. She’s been in all sorts of print ads and commercials over the years. Her trademark glasses make her memorable and unforgettable.

iris-apfel-homeThe movie was great. My mom & I really enjoyed it. After the movie we went to a cafe to chat about it. We talked about how inspired we were by how courageous Iris is. At 93 years old, Iris is being being Iris, and she’s boldly sharing her life of creativity & style with the world. Iris doesn’t do anything because it’s trendy or ‘with the times.’ She does what she loves and what she feels inspired to do (regardless of what people think.) The result of that is pure artistic genius that others admire.

One thing that stands out about Iris Apfel, that resonates with me personally — is she knows what truly matters. At the end of her film, she said that health is all we really have that’s truly worth something. She also calls ‘peace of mind’ the greatest luxury that someone can attain. (That comment was made at the New York Times’ International Luxury Conference, to a room full of people that live for famous name brands and evolve their lives around them.)

In the film IRIS, the famed fashion photographer Bruce Weber asks Iris Apfel why he never hears her harshly criticizing the way other people dress. With her elbow bent and hand tossed in the air, Iris replies, “It’s better to be happy than well dressed.”

It’s clear that Iris is not a superficial person living to personify anything. She is simply being herself. It’s also evident that she is absolutely clear on what truly matters: Loving Relationships, Peace of Mind, Joy & Happiness, Contribution & Connection, Living Boldly & Honestly — they are all at the top of her list. Iris Apfel definitely has her priorities straight.

“Some people work so hard, at trying to be happy — and trying to do everything they think they’re supposed to do — that they’re very unhappy. It’s just kind of silly. Pressure is a terrible thing. Societal pressure is an awful thing.” – Iris Apfel


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