On August 29, Iris Apfel turned 100 years old. Normally, the “geriatric starlet” as she is called, does not dwell on birthdays. Age is just a number. Yada yada yada. But 100 is a pretty big one, and the occasion is, at the very least, an excuse to throw a really big party.
On Thursday, Apfel celebrated its century of life on earth with a high-in-the-sky event at Central Park Tower. She wore a bright yellow look with lots of ruffles, which she designed herself, in collaboration with H&M. It was a preview of its full range with the brand, which will launch in early 2022.
Yes, Apfel has been busy Zooming with designers in Sweden for her collection this year, which includes pieces including colorful, voluminous jewelry and silk pajamas. While the rest of us can barely muster the energy to pull on pants, she sent ideas back and forth and handed out 100 years of style advice. “I never take a break,” she told Cut over the phone this week.
We’ve talked about everything from that time an Italian threw an impromptu birthday party for her to the worst trends of the last century.
First of all, happy birthday. Are you someone who enjoys celebrating birthdays, or isn’t that something you normally do?
It’s not that I don’t like it, my birthday just comes at such a delicate time of the year that it has been difficult to celebrate. I’ve had great opportunities, but in the past we’ve always traveled, and it’s hard to get a group together because it’s always right before Labor Day, or the kids go back to school, or it’s a Jewish holiday or something. But I am very happy with this year.
What’s the most memorable birthday party you’ve had in the past 100 years?
I remember being in Italy once and walking into a factory in Florence – I was doing a wooden furniture collection at the time – and the guy said to me, how do you feel today? hui? And I said, “Old.” And he said, âWhy? And I said, “Because it’s my birthday.” And he clapped his hands and in Italian he said: âFacciamo una festa! In other words: We’re going on vacation! So he made everybody stop working, and he called this lovely grocery store that had a little restaurant in the back overlooking the valley, and he made them lunch. And it was so lovely, and impromptu, with all these fresh treats. It was really wonderful. I will remember this one forever.
That sounds good. Do you remember your age on this birthday?
I never think about age, so I don’t remember.
What do you think makes a good birthday party?
The people. If the people are good, it can be in the woods. If it’s a bunch of duds, you could have the most spectacular setting and delicious food, and the party will be nothing.
Photo: Courtesy of H&M
You have seen a lot of them over the past hundred years, but I imagine a global pandemic is new to you …
Yeah, nobody saw that. And I hope we never see another.
How was the last year for you? I read you were in Florida.
I’ve been there for almost two years. It was very pleasant, I must say. I have a nice apartment by a lake and a nice big terrace, so I don’t want fresh air. And I had two lovely ladies looking after me. I was just like a hermit, however. They treated me like an egg casserole. I could only go out to go to the doctor. So I was really like a hermit in a cave.
Was it difficult for you? To be a hermit?
Well, it wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t the worst thing. Staying well was the most important thing, and I’m very self-sufficient, so I wrote a lot.
Has the pandemic changed the way you dress? Do you think this will change the way people dress in general?
Well, that hasn’t changed the way I dress. I never really dressed when I was home because I was home so rarely. So being in one of my many bathrobes is always very nice. Of course, when I go out, I get dressed. And I think it changed the way a lot of people dress because – listen, my daughters bought some clothes to wear for my birthday party, and they tell me the stores mostly sell informal clothes. It’s very hard to find, you know, proper clothes.
Do you think people fail to dress?
Oh, yeah, I think they miss dressing, because when you’re all dressed up and looking at yourself in the mirror, you feel like a different person. I think dressing up adds a layer to your personality.
Do you miss dressing at all or do you have enough beautiful bathrobes to keep you happy?
Oh, I don’t miss that. I did a lot of photoshoots so I dress a lot. But I know that if I had to not dress at all, I would feel terrible.
You wore an H&M dress that you designed for your birthday party. Let’s talk about your collection. How did your design process go?
It was interesting work. I’ve never worked quite that way; very long distance. They do the design in Sweden and we did it all by Zoom. It is therefore a back and forth.
Can you tell me a little about what the collection looks like?
There are a lot of strong and bright colors. It is a very cheerful line and a very practical line. You can do everything in my line, even swim. It covers the whole range. There will be almost 20 pieces.
Wow. It must have been a lot of work. Have you ever taken a break?
Oh, I never take a break. I like to work.
How do you imagine customers styling the pieces you’ve designed?
What I like is that everything is very flexible. Almost anything can be purchased as individual pieces, so a person has the flexibility to put their own stamp of individuality, which I hope they will, and put it together in their own way. We will offer suggestions, of course, but I think it’s very adaptable. I like that people are themselves and express themselves, and that not all are like the crowd. God has given everyone a personality and a character, and they should enjoy it and wallow in it, and not try to be like everyone else. This collection therefore gives you the possibility to wear all H&M products, or to mix them with your own clothes. I wore this truly spectacular, very daring and interesting piece of jewelry from the ridiculously low-priced collection, and mixed it up with my own collection. So you have all these possibilities.
Did you buy something for yourself for your birthday? Did someone give you any good gifts?
Oh, yes, I got some nice gifts, and I’m going to buy something. I just need to have time to clear my head and have a few shekels in my pocket. [Laughs.] I really don’t know what; I have to go see. Thank goodness I don’t need anything.
What’s the worst trend you’ve seen in the past 100 years?
The worst trend is the way people walk out of the house as if they were going to take a shower. They go out in flip-flops and almost without clothes. The hairier and fatter guys are, the less clothes they wear, it seems.