Iris Apfel, a fashion icon and interior decorator is celebrating her 99th birthday in style today. Apfel, who has an easily-recognizable, eclectic and bold look, is credited by many as one of the first people to exude and celebrate what we now refer to as personal style.
The self-described “geriatric starlet” posted about her special day on Instagram where her tagline is “More is more & less is a bore.”
“My old hourglass is doing just fine… Sand’s dripping away, arriving at ninety plus nine. Happy Birthday to Me, may I be of good cheer! To give thanks for thriving & surviving one hell of a year!” Apfel posted along with a picture of herself looking fabulous in a green dress to match her green birthday balloons and surrounded by a menagerie of stuffed animals.
According to CNBC, Apfel was born in New York City on Aug. 29, 1921 and spent time at her grandparents’ house in Brooklyn. It was there that her passion for textiles was ignited after seeing large amounts of fabric scraps that her grandmother’s daughters had on hand to sew items for charity. She was sometimes allowed to take home remnants, which she played with often.
“Obsessed with texture, color, and pattern, I spent whole evenings entertaining myself this way,” wrote Apfel in her 2018 book, “Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon.”
“Looking back, it’s very clear playing this way honed my eye and gave me a very deep interest in fabric,” she recalled.
TODAY’s Donna Farizan spoke with Apfel in 2018 during the launch of her curated collection at Bergdorf Goodman.
“I have never had a plan, things just happened,” she said regarding her “accidental” success. “I think you have to be original, but not original to the point where you’re nutsy,” she said. “You have to be true to yourself, you have to know yourself. Not be a trend follower. You’ve got to learn to take a few risks.”
In 1950, along with her late husband, Carl Apfel, who lived to be 100, she founded Old World Weavers, an international fabric manufacturing company. From there, the couple went on to provide fabrics for the State Department, the White House and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and worked with everyone from Greta Garbo to Jackie Kennedy, according to the late Apfel’s obituary in The New York Times.
After the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art featured Apfel in “Rara Avis,” an exhibit that spotlighted her brightly colored clothing, oversized glasses and layered jewelry, she shot to international stardom. The exhibit ran from 2005-2006 and Apfel was 84 years old at the time. Since then, she’s become famous for her lifelong love of and contributions to the world of fashion. In 2018, she even had a Barbie doll made in her likeness.
In 2011, Apfel developed a limited edition collection of makeup for MAC cosmetics and a jewelry line that she sold on the Home Shopping Network. Four years later, a documentary about her, “Iris,” was released to wide acclaim, and even earned an Emmy nomination.
Now, at just shy of a century, Apfel is still dazzling fans with her inimitable style and words of wisdom.
“I feel style is in your DNA and something you really can’t learn,” she told TODAY. “I always dressed for myself. I don’t care what anybody thinks. I’m not a rebel and I don’t do these things to shock anybody. Frankly, I don’t give a damn.”
Happy 99th birthday to this one-of-a-kind, iconic woman!