10 Lessons To Live By From Iris Apfel

No-filter advice care of a woman who actually deserves the title ”style icon.“

By: Emily Ramshaw
Photography: Renée Rodenkirchen
Videographer: Renée Rodenkirchen

We like to think we have a go-to phrase here at TC HQ: WWID, or, for the uninitiated: What Would Iris Do. We figure that when it comes to imagination and style, there’s no one quite as inspiring as Iris Apfel. And putting yourself in the Iris mindset works for all sorts of situations: what would she do, what would she think, but especially, What Would Iris Say. We’ve really always wanted to find out—‘cause you know that after more than a few decades as the ultimate purveyor of extraordinary taste, the woman knows what’s up. And no surprise, there’s plenty to learn. Press play and read on: this is Iris with no filter.

 

— Lesson 1 —

Leave no stone unturned

(when it comes to shopping).

"[I’ve found my clothes and antiques] all over the world; I travelled extensively. For my business I used to do two trips a year, mostly to Europe and England, to buy for my clients. I had a big interior design business of my own and I also sold antiques through the Old World Weaver showrooms around the country. Then there were a number of my own things that I've collected over the years, so it's an amalgamation. But it's a long, long collection from all over the place."

 

— Lesson 2 —

If you like something, buy it.

"It has to jump out and say something. I like offbeat things; I have very few run-of-the-mill things. I have a lot of pieces that are from other periods that may fit perfectly, but are not the usual thing that you would see. You can't do houses and have everything you need right at your fingertips, and clients don't like to wait too long. So whenever I saw unusual things I bought them—in all kinds of crazy places.

I've had to cut down drastically as I’ve run out of wall space. Fortunately, I'm not a minimalist, as I'm sure you've noticed. I have a couple of storage spaces. I still buy small things that appeal to me and I still collect jewelry with a vengeance.”

 

— Lesson 3 —

Every purchase should be special.

"I just bought a wonderful pin recently; it's all pavé stones and must be about eight inches high. When you look at it at first it looks like a 19th century dandy. The gentleman has a long frock coat and interesting hat, like a top hat, but it's a trembling piece—its head wiggles. When you look more however, he's not a man, he's a monkey. He's really quite wonderful."

 

— Lesson 4 —

Make a statement with your beauty choices

"My favorite shade of lipstick? Very, very, bright, bright, bright red. My husband and I used the same scent, it's very nice but not easy to find. We used to buy it in Paris, but now you can get it in the States. It’s called Yagatan [cologne]."

 

— Lesson 5 —

When you find something you love, make it your own.

"I found [my signature glasses] at a flea market and I started to wear them when I needed to wear glasses! As a matter of fact, I liked them so much—the great big ones—sometimes I’d wear them without any lenses, just as an accessory, as I thought they were so fantastic."

 

— Lesson 6 —

Save the meaningful pieces forever

"I still have the dress I wore on the first date with my husband, which was more than 66 years ago. I still have it and it still fits.”

 

— Lesson 7 —

Keep an open mind

"There were a few decades that I hated, but I loved most things. The world is not black and white; there are lots of shades of grey. There are good things and bad things in every era, and I think it's kind of very blindfolded to say one era was wonderful, as it was wonderful, but there were a lot of bad things as well. Art Nouveau I don't like, but people were doing some wonderful things. I love things with a sense of Baroque. I love big, bold things, as well as very simple things. I go from one to the other and I like to mix them up.

I don’t have special places to shop, as you never know what you're going to find—I always tried to keep an open mind. I could find a treasure in a junk shop or junk in a very elegant emporium."

 

— Lesson 8 —

Don’t expect anything from anybody

"My father told me once not to expect anything from anybody so I wouldn't be disappointed. If somebody was nice and did nice things for me I should be overjoyed, but I shouldn't go through life expecting it, which is very good advice."

 

— Lesson 9 —

Let your personality shine through

"It's very eclectic—everything I like, I put together. I don't like the norm. I think there's a lot of wonderful decorating around, but it all looks the same. While some of these homes are very beautiful, they look anonymous to me. They could be suites in very expensive hotels, but they don't tell you who lives there. I like an apartment that has some personality. When it comes down to it, everyone is different."

 

— Lesson 10 —

Express yourself

"The anonymity of it—it's all too similar. I think people should express themselves more and not just buy what's in. While it can be very beautiful and it may suit you perfectly, I'm sure it doesn’t suit everyone in the same way. I like people who express themselves and are more individualistic."

 

Iris wears clothes by BCBG MAXAZRIA.

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