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Six nuggets of wisdom from fashion icon Iris Apfel

She’s hung out with everyone from Kanye to Duke Ellington, and with a new documentary, fashion’s oldest trendsetter shows no signs of slowing

Iris Apfel doesn’t like rock music, or Dixieland for that matter, but she's a big jazz fan. “It was a very big influence in my life actually, because jazz is all about improvisation and people say the way I put myself together is improvisation.”

Iris follows Apfel around in her surprisingly jam-packed life, filmed over the space of four years by the late documentary-maker Albert Maysles. We are ushered into cluttered shops and markets, window displays and decadent apartments, following this “rare bird” around as she scouts for colourful trinkets with more raw passion than a magpie on LSD. “Any market that has something to sell, I like,” she confesses.

She may be fond of shopping, but Iris is certainly no clothes horse. The film is rife with sharp-witted, shrewd nuggets of wisdom – ones that would garner RTs galore. Iris, who comes with her very own soundtrack of rattling bangles and swooshing layers of fabric, has the rare gift of wisdom and experience in the world of fashion and is still, at the age of 93, imparting more honest, hard-earned knowledge than most people in the industry. What Maysles wanted to capture was her raw spirit and natural eye for this stuff, and he totally has. This noteworthy doc can teach you more about design, fashion and true passion than most college courses ever could.

But, for someone that gives such spectacular, soundbite-ready advice, Iris is incredibly modest about her opinions and openly grateful for the attention. “At this stage in the game it’s very, how shall I say, rewarding and unexpected to be having all these accolades when I really should be out to pasture.”


“It takes a lot of hard work, you have to get rid of a lot of garbage. Nothing worthwile is easy: there’s no free lunch. The day I learned that was the day I grew up. Everything has a price. All the extraneous things in your life can screw you up. Everybody’s different. You can’t make rules about people because every personality is a different one. To make everybody the same is an awful thing.”


“People tell me they’d like to be more individual, but you have to work at it. Nobody is the same, some people are comfortable in one thing, or look well in one thing, and they have to know what they can handle. And that’s great if it makes someone happy, but it’s better to be happy than be well-dressed, that’s what I always say. But you can be both, you can be comfortable and well-dressed and happy: you just have to arrange it for yourself, nobody can tell you. People can tell you all day long but in the end it’s you that has to do it.”


“Technologically I live in the 17th century. I don’t have a computer and I don’t look at the internet. I know people tell me I’m all over it but I never see it, I think it’s silly. And even though I don’t know whats going on in that department, I know that people rely on it much too heavily and I don’t approve. I think people have lost the art of relationships, human relationships. Everything is dependent on machines, and it’s sad. I don’t know how it is in the UK but over here that’s how I feel.”

“Nothing worthwile is easy: there’s no free lunch. The day I learned that was the day I grew up” – Iris Apfel


“They’ll go out on a date and they’ll sit there texting each other like they’re two deaf mutes. Most young people have great difficulty carrying out a relationship and the internet provides everything: you don’t have to develop your memory or anything, you just click a button and you have the answer. I don’t think it’s a good thing, but who am I? That’s just my opinion. Technology is fabulous and there are lots of wonderful things that it does, but in my view a lot of the time it’s used in the wrong way. I don’t inflict judgement on anybody, it’s not my place. It’s just an observation. I know I’m not wrong because more and more people are agreeing with me.”


 “I’m not a scientist and I don’t exactly know how these people do it, but I think if people got to know who they were then they would have an easier time of being a little more original. But it's much easier to just not think about it and just do what they’re told to do by the fashion press, then sit down and order it. But everyone just looks alike.”


“First of all I don’t need any of that stuff, and I see plenty of it in real life so I don’t have to go online. I know it’s a convenience but I can’t shop online, I like to see it and touch it, it’s just my way. The internet is a huge force and it’s changed the face of the retail world, I know it’s very important.”

Iris is out in cinemas Friday, July 31