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New Iris Apfel review – vibrant sartorial documentary << Video >>

Iris Apfel imparts brittle and generous wisdom to younger fashion enthusiasts.

Edna Mode, the hi-tech fashionista of The Incredibles, may have had Anna Wintour’s hair, but more distinctively, she had the porthole-sized spectacles of Iris Apfel, the 93-year-old subject of this documentary. A beloved New York fashion icon and self-styled “geriatric starlet”, Mrs Apfel is famous for dressing with delirious, eye-searing panache. “I like to improvise,” she says, “try this, try that, as though I’m playing jazz” – her jazz presumably being of the bacchanalian free-improv variety, rather than black polo-neck cool school.
Albert Maysles’s film follows Apfel on her shopping expeditions; explores the clutter-filled Aladdin’s cave of a home she shares with her husband and interior-design partner Carl, now 101; and shows her imparting brittle and generous wisdom to younger and more earnest fashionistas.
Given that she has made a lifelong three-ring circus out of her dress sense, it would be easy to dismiss Apfel as an eccentric show-off rather than exalt her as a permanent performance artist.
But she emerges here as a down-to-earth, self-mocking, savvy philosopher, a one-off combination of Madame de Pompadour and a borscht-belt standup: it’s not just Iris’s glasses that recall George Burns, but her wit too.
Albert Maysles – who died in March aged 88, and whose penultimate film this is – is best known for the verite-style documentaries he made with his late brother David, notably Grey Gardens (1975), a deeper, darker portrait of two somewhat more troubled grandes dames. Iris is a slight, conventional affair by Maysles’s standards, and a touch repetitive – endless bolts of fabric and panoplies of costume jewellery laid out for our appreciation. And you can’t help thinking that a socialite who can afford to indulge her style might by nature be less interesting than those people who manage to fuel their sartorial fancies on a shoestring. But Iris Apfel’s whole being – like this entertaining study – is a bracing advert for the pleasures of living large, and loud, into old age.


Iris Apfel


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Iris Apfel (born August 29, 1921) is an American businesswoman, interior designer, and fashion icon.

Background and early life

Born Iris Barrel in Astoria, Queens, New York, Apfel is the only child of Samuel Barrel, whose family owned a glass-and-mirror business, and his Russian-born wife, Sadye, who owned a fashion boutique. Both were Jewish.[1]
She studied art history at New York University and attended art school at the University of Wisconsin. As a young woman, Apfel worked for Women's Wear Daily and for interior designer Elinor Johnson. She also was an assistant to illustrator Robert Goodman.[1]
In 1948, she married Carl Apfel. Two years later, they launched the textile firm Old World Weavers and ran it until they retired in 1992. From 1950 to 1992, Iris Apfel took part in several design restoration projects, including work at the White House for nine presidents: Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton.
At age 90 in 2012, Apfel was a visiting professor at University of Texas at Austin.[2]
Apfel consults and lectures about style and other fashion topics. In 2013, she was listed as one of the fifty best-dressed over 50s by The Guardian. [3]

Museum retrospectives

In 2005, The Costume Institute, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York City premiered on September 13, 2005, an exhibition about Iris Apfel's style entitled Rara Avis (Rare Bird): The Irreverent Iris Apfel. The exhibition's upbeat success, organized by Stéphane Houy-Towner,[4] prompted an initial traveling version of the exhibit at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida,[5] the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn Harbor, New York, and later at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts.
The Museum of Lifestyle & Fashion History in Boynton Beach, Florida is in the conceptual phase of designing a building which will house a dedicated gallery of Apfel's clothes, accessories and furnishings.


Apfel is the star of a documentary by Albert Maysles, called Iris.[6][7][8][9][10] It premiered at the New York Film Festival in October 2014, and was subsequently acquired by Magnolia Pictures for US theatrical distribution in 2015. [11]