iris apfel - film by albert maysles

Gangbusters. A word Iris said in the the new documentary film IRIS. I already knew I liked her, but when she said gangbusters among other hilarious phrases for a 93-year-old say, I was like OK this lady is the shit. P.S. Can we talk about this gorgeous movie poster!?!

If you were in the world of interior design, or live in or care about the people in New York City, you may have heard about Iris Apfel prior to her recent fame. She and her husband Carl founded Old World Weavers in 1950 and worked on design projects for nine Presidents in the White House. Nine. Otherwise, you might recognize her now by her appearance — large glasses, colorfully layered style, and piles of accessories. On a woman in her 90s it’s hard to miss.

I was invited to a press screening of a new film out about her called IRIS by the legendary 87-year-old documentarian Albert Maysles. I love watching documentaries so I was excited to see it, but was curious what I’d come away with, if anything. At the least, I figured it’d be entertaining.

IRIS APFEL© Bruce Weber

One thing I thought was hilarious is how cheap Iris is when it comes to shopping. She is a haggler. She even talks about it in the film — about when it’s appropriate or not to haggle. How in some cultures it’s expected, and rude not to haggle over the price. In the film she literally says, “I’m cheap!”

One of my favorite parts of the film was watching her husband Carl watch her and react to her, and seeing them interact. I love watching old people who obviously have such a deep love for each other. I caught myself with an open-mouth smile while watching the two of them.

A lot of times older women don’t wear denim. They wear pants or skirts. Denim is just too casual. But Iris literally said “I’m a denim freak.” For some reason that surprised me considering pants are the last thing you notice on her. It’s usually the glasses, a patterned jacket or brightly colored top she’s wearing, loaded with giant necklaces and bangles that demand your attention. She talked about how she loves the process of shopping and putting outfits together more than wearing the actual items. 

Iris Apfel - Kate Spade - Alexis Bittar


In the film you learn about Iris’s rise to her recent fame because of an exhibition in 2005 at The Costume Institute at The Met. You’ll have to see the film to get the story on how the exhibition came about, but the response to it was so strong, the exhibition ended up traveling around to other locations. Since the exhibition, Iris has done numerous collaborations with brands — most recently she is the face of Kate Spade New York’s spring campaign with model Karlie Kloss, and Alexis Bittar’s spring campaign with Tavi Gevinson.

IRIS APFEL QUOTEPhoto courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Even though I’m not solely a fashion blogger, fashion is one of the main topics I cover. And having been a blogger for over seven years now, I have seen the trends that just get way overdone by fashion bloggers. Personally I do my best to just do ME. What I like, what I want to wear, what I want to buy — and anything that gets too popular, I try to stay away from. So when Iris said, “I like individuality. Everything is so homogenized these days,” I was like yes Iris YESSSS.

She also says she doesn’t buy things to impress anyone, she buys them because she likes them. Again, couldn’t agree more with her. This brings up the topic of who you dress for. Some younger women sometimes tend to dress for men (totally did myself) — tight, low-cut, short skirts — you know what I’m talking about. The older you get, the more people tend to dress for themselves. Personally I could give a shit about what others think of what I’m wearing (not that I don’t love a compliment — I’m a woman that loves fashion) but for me all that matters is if I like it.

And like Iris says, “It’s better to be happy than well-dressed.” Yes Iris, it is.

If you want to see the film check out Magnolia Films here