'Accidental icon' Iris Apfel talks individuality and aging in her new book
Iris Apfel is an Instagram darling — but at 96, says youth lack curiosity.
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Iris Apfel is grateful for her 800,000-plus Instagram followers, though she doesn’t care how many thousands of likes her photos receive.
The 96-year-old style icon not only abhors the dulling effect social media has on our culture, she has never used a computer, let alone taken a selfie. She follows in her mother’s footsteps, who refused to use an adding machine throughout her 100-year life, preferring to calculate large sums in her head.
What Apfel really wants is for everyone to put down their phones and to reconnect with the world.
“All young people do is press buttons. They don’t think, they have no curiosity. They want an answer to something, they press a button. They want an experience, they press a button. I’m very sad for the younger generation,” she says, following a long day selecting accessories for the bespectacled mannequins that now grace the stretch of windows lining Manhattan luxury department store Bergdorf Goodman.
The Fifth Avenue displays celebrate Bergdorf’s Iris Apfel pop-up shop and the launch of her new book, Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon.
Apfel had been deluged with offers to publish again following the success of her 2007 coffee-table book, but had no desire to write a traditional memoir — “I’m too private,” she says — and thinks how-to books are insulting.
But several years ago, following the critical success of the late Albert Maysles’ 2014 Emmy-nominated documentary, Iris, which introduced Apfel’s flamboyant maximalist life-view to new audiences, she heard from three different publishers within a week.
“I don’t know if they did a survey, but they all presented the same type of book,” she says. “A book of musings told in bits and pieces. That sounded appealing.”
Just like its author, Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon is unconventional. Full-page photos and illustrations pop in a fountain of colour, mixing with personal stories, lists and witticisms.
Whereas other fashion insiders’ books have illuminated the divide between those who receive invites to the Met Ball and those who watch the live stream in their pyjamas, Apfel’s exuberance and no-nonsense wit makes her not only approachable, but desirable for a fantasy dinner-party guest list. (Although take note: She is tired of “dopey cocktail-party conversations.”)
Beyond the plumage and stacks of bangles, Apfel’s story is ultimately that of a boundary-busting female entrepreneur who found love and success on her own terms, and continues to seek out new projects that pique her interest. While Accidental Icon is generous with advice on topics like embracing individuality and aging, Apfel doesn’t want to be seen as a zealot dictating how people should live.
“I’m not trying to reform people or to have them do anything. It’s not my business, and if people don’t want to do these things, it’s their misfortune,” she says.
“I try to do it in an amusing way so I’m not lecturing, but I just would like to see everyone happy and a little more creative with their lives. I don’t mean creative as in an artist, but to be creative about living, how they handle themselves, how they dress, how they behave, how they think.”
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