Many designers have a muse. Someone who inspires them and personifies their vision. A designer’s muse is a living, breathing embodiment of their work. Some designers are personally connected to their muses. They attend events with them and spend time with them, allowing their muse to influence their life on a daily basis. Other creatives are inspired by their muses from afar.
There are also rare women who are not only inspirations for one designer but for the fashion industry as a whole. Iris Apfel is one such divine woman.
Born in New York, Mrs. Apfel studied at NYU and the University of Wisconsin. She has worked for some of the best in the fashion and interior design businesses, including Women’s Wear Daily, Elinor Johnson and fashion illustrator Robert Goodman. She and her husband, Carl Apfel, started a unique textiles company called Old World Weavers which remained her their life’s work until they retired.
Mrs. Apfel has long been an inspiration for me. Not in the way you would think of a traditional muse so to speak. Obviously her fashion choices are bold and colorful while I tend towards a softer and more vintage look. Inspiration is not always about like-minded fashion choices. For me, Mrs. Apfel has always stood for individuality. She has blazed her own trail. She has made bold choices and worn them with the attitude to back them up. She styles herself by relying on her instinct and makes choices based on what she thinks looks good rather than conforming to rules or what’s trendy. Truthfully her look is entirely hers and cannot be categorized other than to say its “very Iris Apfel”.
I recently had the pleasure to meet Mrs. Apfel in person when she came to my studio with a group of students from the University of Texas where she is an adjunct professor. What lucky students! Spending three days being toured around to the view the inner workings of some of the most prestigious fashion houses in the world with the most fabulous tour guide I can think of. My team and I spoke to the students about what its like to start your own collection and offered tidbits of advice we had learned over the years. Even though the group was there to hear what we had to say, the honor was all ours. Hosting Mrs. Apfel, the UT professors and the future rising stars of the fashion industry was an experience we will all remember.
I could never do justice to my admiration for Mrs. Apfel in a single blog entry but they say a photo speaks a thousand words. She is not only fabulous but kind and gracious. Here she is signing my well-loved copy of “Rare Bird of Fashion: The Irreverent Iris Apfel”. Now my treasured book has become even more so.