Fashion icon Iris Apfel chatted with us about her new collection with Atelier Swarovski, how she created her personal style, and why New York City continues to inspire her.
When did fashion become an important aspect of your life? At what point did you begin to cultivate your very unique sense of style? IRIS APFEL: Fashion was always something I was interested in. My mother was very glamourous. When I was very young my mother would take me into Manhattan to go shopping and we would go to fashion boutiques and flea markets to look at everything from beautiful expensive dresses to $15 costume jewelry. So, being interested in beautiful and interesting things was always something that came natural to me.
I think when I was maybe in my teens, I was experimenting until I found what I thought I liked and then I stuck with that. I found my glasses at a flea market and for many years I held on to them even though I didn’t need glasses because I just thought they were fantastic. I only started to wear them when I needed to actually wear glasses for my eye sight!
You have experienced a hugely successful career in textiles and interior design, including working at the White House under nine presidents and countless travels that took you all over the world. How did those experiences impact your life and style? IA: Much of my jewelry and clothing that I wear day to day are special pieces that you can't find here in New York, so I found most of them when I was traveling! When I was working at our company it was so hard to find the fabrics that I was looking for so my husband and I would constantly be traveling. We would be in Europe sourcing and then back here to make the final touches. I don’t travel so much now because it's too tiring but I very much enjoyed the time that I did. I always say this but I truly mean it when I say nothing I ever did I intended to do. Everything just kind of happened.
An open cuff bracelet from Atelier Swarovski's "Just Iris" collection.
Your beautiful new collection with Atelier Swarovski has your signature whimsical, yet elegant style. What inspired the collection? IA: My Atelier Swarovski collection was inspired by me! The collection is titled "Just Iris". It is a fun, quirky but elegant collection that includes statement necklaces, cuffs and earrings made with Swarovski crystals.It was inspired by my personal style.
How did the collection come to fruition? What is it about the Atelier Swarovski brand that made this collaboration appeal to you? IA:I was so honored to be a part of Atelier Swarovski’s 10th anniversary—this is my first collection with them but I have always had a great friendship with the brand and with Nadja Swarovski. I would always be invited to attend all of their events and loved seeing all of the crystal and projects that the brand works on.
In 2005, The Costume Institute premiered "Rara Avis: The Irreverent Iris Apfel". How does it feel to have had your style commemorated in an exhibition at such an iconic cultural institution such as The Met? IA: It was pure craziness. I was so thankful and honored to have had the opportunity to be a part of Harold’s showcase of my style. Again this was something that just happened last minute and it turned out to be a true display of my story and passion for design. I hope it showed people that it's okay to not stick to the norm.
You were born and raised in New York. What is it about the city that still inspires you? IA: Every day that I wake up and get out of bed is inspiring enough. New York will always have a special place in my heart because it is home. When I was younger I used to take the subway in every weekend and every weekend I would travel to all of the different boroughs. It was truly inspiring of how eclectic and special this city is. I am a true New Yorker through and through.
What motivates and drives you to continue working on so many diverse projects? IA: I am very much in the present. I love working on all of my projects but I especially enjoy working on whatever projects I am working on now. There’s a lot going on but I truly feel that each and every project I put my name on is true to me and is a true collaborative endeavor. I have worked all of my life and it is something that has always made me happy, so I hope to continue doing what makes me happy for as long as I can.