Iris Apfel is probably one of our most favorite people in the world. The 89-year-old interior and textiles designer has been a fashion icon ever since she started popping up in Bill Cunningham‘s photo pages in The New York Times, and we’re hard-pressed to think of a person who has a more individual sense of style — for either their homes or their wardrobes. Which is why last night when we ran into her at a party Ralph Lauren threw for newly installed Architectural Digest editor Margaret Russell, we couldn’t help but ask her a few questions about her style, both at home and on the street. And we found out that not too long from now, she’ll be sharing her personal style with the world by way of a jewelry collection.
Do you think it’s important for clothing designers to do interior design work?
I think that both fields are interrelated and it’s part of a lifestyle. One dresses you outside and one keeps you dressed inside.I think it’s a great combination. Especially when you have talent like this. This collection is a knockout. I love it. I’ve never been in this store before and I’m goggle-eyed. It’s incredible.
You’re famous for your work designing interiors and textiles. How did you decorate the first apartment you had on your own?
I never had one. I lived at home. It was different in those days. I’m around since the dinosaurs were roaming the Earth. Well, almost. In those days, if you weren’t from out of town, nice girls lived at home. I was at [New York] University, and then I was at home and then I got married.
Of course, I love antiques, and I was very fortunate in having a gorgeous apartment on East 79th street between Fifth and Madison. My bedroom was 19 feet by 27 feet with 14 foot ceilings, wood-burning fireplace. Divine ceiling. What we had in charm we lacked in plumbing. But it was gorgeous. Anyway, I like old things. I like modern things, but not for people’s homes … complete modernist, minimalist modern for me has no soul.
You’re in the new documentary about New York Times street style photographer Bill Cunningham. Do you think you’d be a fashion icon if he hadn’t started photographing you?
Maybe not. I think it’s hysterical that I’m an icon. At my age I should be out to pasture, but I’m doing all sorts of new things, like doing a jewelry collection and all kinds of stuff. But Bill is wonderful. Bill really launched me, with that piece in The New York Times. My show [at the Metropolitan Museum of Art] had no pre-press, and he just came and then everything went on fire. I adore him, he’s just wonderful.
Technologically I live in the 18th century, and I don’t operate a computer. So I’ve never seen anybody’s website. I don’t even know what’s out there. People tell me I’m all over the place, but I never see it.
What can you tell us about your jewelry collection? Did you design the bracelets you’re wearing now?
I don’t know — these are just prototypes, so we have to winnow down, fill out. It’ll be an interesting collection when it’s finished, but I don’t where it’s going to be. But it shouldn’t be too long. I’ll let you know when it happens.