The Arty Semite

Albert Maysles Making Documentary About Style Icon Iris Apfel

By Renee Ghert-Zand

  • Print
  • Share Share

How many 90-year-old women start designing their own fashion accessories line for the Home Shopping Network and get to be the subject of a new documentary by a renowned filmmaker? Not many. But then again, Iris Apfel is not your usual nonagenarian.

Getty Images

In the sunset of her life Apfel, style icon and interior designer, has received the most attention and been the most appreciated. As much as you may dislike her exotic and riotous taste (“A more-is-more mix of haute couture and hippie trimmings that appears at a glance to have been blended in a Cuisinart,” is how Ruth La Ferla referred to it in The New York Times), it is hard to take your eyes off her eye-popping outfits and oversized round eyeglasses.

While those glasses are going to be the inspiration for a line of scarves that Apfel will be hocking on HSN, it is her larger-than-life personality that has attracted Albert Maysles (director of “Grey Gardens”) and his production company. Apfel is a woman with a lot of moxie, a lot to say, and lots and lots of clothes — most of them stored in a huge warehouse. “She’s wonderfully strong-willed, opinionated and single-minded,” Bradley Kaplan, president of products at Maysles Films, told the Times. “She’s not a waffler.”

Others have recognized Apfel’s uniqueness and put either her or her clothes in the spotlight. The Metropolitan Museum of Art ran a show dedicated to her wardrobe in 2005. It was called “Rara Avis (Rare Bird): The Irreverent Iris Apfel,” perhaps a reference to her willingness to wear feathers, but most likely a nod to her singular sense of fashion. In 2007, Bruce Weber photographed the then-86-year-old for Italian Vogue. The same year, her wardrobe was documented in a coffee table book by photographer Eric Boman.

Apfel started her career at Women’s Wear Daily as an assistant to highly regarded interior designers and illustrators. She and her husband, Carl Apfel, ran their own textile and design firm, Old World Weavers, until their retirement in 1992. Over the years, Apfel worked on a number of important design restoration projects, including many at the White House.

“I never thought that in my dotage, that I’d have to find an entertainment lawyer,” the style icon told the Times’ La Ferla in reference to Maysles’ documentary. But given her growing celebrity status, Apfel shouldn’t be too surprised.

We can’t wait to see what she’s going to wear to the film’s premiere.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Renee Ghert-Zand, Iris Apfel, Film, Fashion, Documentaries, Albert Maysles

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.