Iris Apfel is a legend, dubbed fashion’s rare bird, a geriatric style icon and a nonagenarian starlet.
Iris offers so much more than fashion. The 93-year-old’s wisdom, wit, New York-attitude and surprising practicality shine through in this charming documentary.
Iris is the late Albert Maysles’ final film, about our favourite senior stylist. I’ve seen Advanced Style; I liked it very much. (It’s now available on Netflix.) I had similar expectations from Iris, but they were completely surpassed.
There’s plenty of fashion to ogle. There’s even more unique style – Iris has an innate sense of it, and hers is totally her own. From dollar-store bargains to ethnic shops, flea markets and vintage couture, you get the sense she’s been mixing high-low, and everything in between, before anyone else thought of it. “I like individuality. It’s so lost these days. So much sameness. Everything is homogenised. I hate it,” she states.
Homogenisation, standards, ideals, norms, these are Iris’ bugbears in fashion and society. “I never felt pretty… I’m not a pretty person. I don’t like pretty, so I don’t feel badly. Most of the world is not with me but I don’t care,” she states. The documentary calls them out but it doesn’t linger too long on any particular point. You get the feeling Iris wouldn’t be interested in dwelling too long.
“Life is grey and dull; you might as well have a little fun when you dress,” she advises. There are no rules for getting dressed in Iris’ bulging wardrobe, indeed archives. She has a vast collection but doesn’t see herself as a collector. She wears clothes for joy and realises their limitations: “It’s better to be happy than well-dressed,” she insists.
She’s pragmatic too when questioned about having children. She made a choice and hers was for a career, which took her from Women’s Wear Daily to running her own design company to TV-shopping and now book writing. She takes up to 50 calls a day, and shows no signs of retiring. Her work ethic is astounding.
At the very heart of the documentary though is her relationship with her husband, Carl, 101. Some of the most touching moments are in their home, a bazaar of hotchpotch, mismatched trinkets and treasures. Their partnership rings true: “it’s not a dull marriage, I can tell you that,” says Carl. They are, perhaps, the perfect poster children for old age.
At select cinemas.
All photos courtesy Magnolia Pictures