Iris Apfel is a blue zone unto herself. The 102-year-old style icon — the oldest model to be signed to IMG Models and who has been immortalised as a Barbie — started collecting her extraordinary costume jewellery and sublime clothing as a young girl. She would take the train and then the subway from the farm where she grew up into Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. It was a journey that would culminate in a much-lauded retrospective at the Costume Institute at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2005, entitled “Rara Avis (Rare Bird): The Irreverent Iris Apfel”.
Her aesthetics are grounded in her art-history degrees and a lifetime of collecting. Together with her husband Carl, she launched a hugely successful textile firm called Old World Weavers in 1950. One of their most illustrious and, indeed, easiest clients was the White House, where they worked with nine presidencies. They specialised in reproductions of 17th-, 18th, and 19th-century fabrics, which led to intense immersive trips all over the world, honing Apfel’s magpie eye for the unusual, the dramatic, the artisanal, and the spectacular and resulting in the look that is now shorthand for advanced style.
• From the 2023/2024 edition of Wanted Watches, Jewellery and Luxury.