Iris Apfel

Star of a new documentary, nonagenarian fashion sensation Iris Apfel has wit and wisdom to spare on the joys of just being yourself

In My Beauty, fashion and culture鈥檚 most compelling faces reveal in their own words what the idea of beauty means to them

It鈥檚 unusual for people rise to fashion fame in their 80s, but Iris Apfel is anything but typical. Now 93 years old, this unconventional icon has worn many hats in her colourful life, from textile tycoon to interior designer and businesswoman. In 2005, Apfel achieved heroine status, when New York鈥檚 Metropolitan Museum of Art debuted Rara Avis (Rare Bird): The Irreverent Iris Apfel, an exhibition of her eccentric and beautiful wardrobe. In more recent years, Apfel launched her own makeup collection for M路A路C and a line of eyewear for Eyebobs, as well as a line of bright and bold accessories for the Home Shopping Network. She鈥檚 also the subject of a documentary by the legendary documentarian Albert Maysles; titled Iris, the film premiered at the New York Film festival late last year.

鈥淚鈥檝e always dressed for myself. I'm not a rebel, I鈥檓 not out to damage or change the world, and I鈥檓 not trying to offend anybody. But if the way I look displeases you, that鈥檚 your problem, not mine. You can鈥檛 please everybody. If you try to be everything to everybody, you'll end up being nothing to no one

鈥淚'm not a rebel鈥 But if the way I look displeases you, that鈥檚 your problem, not mine. You can鈥檛 please everybody.鈥

鈥淣othing exists in a vacuum, so of course style and beauty are connected. There's all kinds of beauty 鈥 savage beauty, sweet beauty, artificial beauty, even sexy beauty. But it鈥檚 all about point of view. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder 鈥 every culture has its standards of beauty, and those standards change with time. What some tribes consider beautiful we would consider hideous, and vice versa. And when we look back on styles from the past, sometimes we think 鈥渦gh, awful,鈥 and at other times we think 鈥渉ow beautiful.鈥 If everybody thought the same thing was beautiful all the time, it would be pretty awful!

鈥淏eauty is largely in your head. When you鈥檙e somebody who鈥檚 not a natural beauty, but you're attractive, it鈥檚 about smoke and mirrors in a way. There are certain things I know look more attractive on me than others, and certain ways that my hair looks better. If you spend a little time on yourself, you usually get results. And confidence is very important. No matter how pretty you are, if you look ill at ease in your own skin, then you're not going to look so beautiful. I think serenity can be a large part of someone鈥檚 beauty.

鈥淭he greatest fashion faux pas is looking in the mirror and seeing somebody else. So many people look so badly, in my view, because they try to emulate. They look at the beauties on the red carpet and think that if they wear the same dress, or get the same hairdo, that they鈥檙e going to look like that. People don't know who they are, or what they really look like, because if they did, they wouldn't commit some of the blunders that they do.

鈥淓xperimenting is very important. When I was young, I experimented a lot 鈥 I鈥檇 try things and look in the mirror, and if they didn't look right I鈥檇 try something else. It takes a lot of time. At the start, even if you don't do it consciously, unconsciously you emulate the people or things you think look good. But then eventually, unless you're a hack 鈥 if you're a person and can look, feel, think and see 鈥 you start to express yourself. It鈥檚 the same with writing, cooking or anything else. It鈥檚 fundamental common sense 鈥 it鈥檚 not magic. People always think I can tell them how to have style, but it doesn't work that way; there's no formula.鈥

It was also an era of emancipation for women, who found themselves freed from the corsets of nthe 1900s almost overnight. Free to breathe, dance and seduce at last, it was the birth of the Party Girl as we know and love her to this day. With her short hair bobbed into a perfect little pageboy, and her lithe, tanned body finally allowed to come alive, the face she donned for the occasion tells the story of her liberation. Through Luhrmann鈥檚 lens, 鈥渢hat aesthetic is punched to the max,鈥 she adds. 鈥淭he classic round, smoked-out eye exploded in almost every single colour you can imagine. That first party scene is almost pornographic with colour and texture.鈥 The Gatsby girls鈥 eyes are dark pools of debauchery, her cheeks either alabaster smooth or indecently rouged, her lips painted in tight, red bee-sting. Taken to its extreme, the look shimmers with showgirl sleaze. It鈥檚 a face that says, 鈥淵es, I can have all the fun, all the sex, all the money.鈥 But Gatsby himself isn鈥檛 interested in them. He only has eyes for Daisy 鈥 sweet, respectable, married Daisy Buchannan. Daisy with her porcelain complexion, and sophisticated take on that same dolled-up face. Daisy who shows all us nice girls how to do it.