You’d think someone who has landed major fashion campaigns, designed a namesake accessory line and even had an entire documentary dedicated to her personal style would be out of career goals at this point. But 94-year-old Iris Apfel is not like most people. She lives by her own strong style motto and is the busiest campaign model of the spring season (yes, busier than even Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner). We caught up with the new face of the clothing line, Blue Illusion, to discover her iconic accessorizing tricks and amass as much fashion wisdom as possible from the timeless tastemaker.
For her new partnership, the style icon is not only starring in Blue Illusions’s Spring 2016 ad campaign (and accompanying video), she helped style the shoot and welcomed the photo crew inside her magnificent N.Y.C. apartment (like we said, she’s busy). “All of the accessories in the campaign were mine. I accessorized everything,” she tells PeopleStyle. “I have a very big collection. I’ve been collecting since I was 11 years old. I’m 94 now, so do the arithmetic. It’s a lot of stuff.”
She credits her 83 years of accessorizing know-how to one person: “My mother worshiped at the alter of the accessory and she taught me that they were extremely transformative. You could have one basic black dress and if you had a group of accessories and you had some creativity, you could make 20 outfits. Change them around. And I learned a lot from that.”
Which is exactly what drew her to Blue Illusion’s simple, elegant designs, saying they make the perfect “foundations” in a wardrobe. “I thought they have a wonderful product and I’m always interested in clothes that are architectural and suitable for people of all ages,” she shares. “That’s something I really champion and I think they do a very good job on all those fronts.”
Considering this marks her second campaign of the season (she’s also working with Kate Spade for the second year in a row) she’s the most active 94-year-old model in the game. “Oh my god, I love being busy, I think it keeps me alive. I’m probably the busiest person you ever heard of. I’m busy to the point of insanity.”
Though there is one requirement for every job she takes on. “If it isn’t fun, I don’t want to do it.”
While there’s so much to learn and admire from Apfel’s incredible work ethic and eye for design, she also knows exactly how to dish out genius style advice — by giving (in a sense) none!
“I don’t have any tricks I can’t tell other people what to do,” she states. “I know if you’re yourself and you know who you are and you have your own style, you can wear all kinds of clothes — within reason. I mean, [at my age] you can’t wear mini skirts and sleeveless dresses in my view, but you can wear most anything if it’s modified and appropriate.”
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And such knowledge comes from thinking of fashion as a very important part of living. “I think if you get dressed you might as well do it with style and have some fun with it. And pay attention. There’s no reason to walk around looking like a rag heap.”
According to Apfel, to avoid looking like said “rag heap,” there are two simple steps to follow.
1. Don’t copy celebrity trends.
When asked if she keeps up with red carpet styles she responded, “No. What is celebrity style? What’s that? Why should I care?”
Elaborating, “I think individuality has gone down the drain. I like people to look like themselves and look original and be comfortable and not try to copy. I mean it’s so ridiculous a short, plump lady, I mean I can see that she would dream of it, dress like Angelina Jolie when she comes out on the red carpet. I mean, it doesn’t make any sense.”
2. And dress in clothing that makes you happy.
“I have to say that when people ask me what’s the biggest fashion mistake, I say looking in the mirror and seeing somebody else. That’s what women do all the time and that’s what’s so bad about the red carpet. Make the best of what you look like. You certainly can do it. It’s possible. Every age and every personality has a great potential and can look terrific if you use a little time, effort and imagination.”
What do you think of Apfel’s ad campaign? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
— Colleen Kratofil