Iris Apfel On Personal Style

In the world of fashion and style, there’s aging gracefully, and then there’s Iris Apfel. An icon in advanced style (as well as the fashion industry in general), Apfel has always had a major role in fashion, as well as a passion for collecting everything from haute accessories to art and textiles. She was the perfect fit for our second International Women’s Day story, as she is both a true fashion legend and one of the women we most admire. We’re throwing back to our 2015 chat with Apfel. Trust us, her words of wisdom are exactly what you need this Tuesday…

What were your inspirations for Rara Avis, your HSN collection?

I actually find that question difficult to answer, because if I want to do something I just do it. Sure, a lot of things are inspired by things I have or things I’ve seen, but I think inspiration comes from living.

What are your secrets to aging gracefully?

I don’t have any secrets. I always eat well; I never eat junk food. I don’t drink soda. I used to smoke four packs a day! But I gave it up; I just quit one day. I don’t do any exercises regularly. I don’t drink heavily, but I do have a drink now and then.

What do you think about personal style…

A woman should know herself, and know what she can afford, not only financially, but if she can carry it off. She should know whether she wants to invest her time in studying herself and experimenting – it doesn’t come from out of the blue. Personal style is attitude, attitude, attitude. It has to come from within. You have to develop things yourself. It takes a long time, and it isn’t easy. Lately I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a difficult thing for a lot of women, and it makes them uptight and nervous. You don’t have to be a fashion plate; if it’s a choice of being uptight and nervous, I’d rather be badly dressed. If you’re happy, that’s the most important thing. If you want to experiment try, but no one is going to put you in jail if you buy the wrong skirt.

Some women, I feel sorry for because, they look at the glossies, and they see these divine looking models who are maybe sixteen with gorgeous complexions (and retouched!). How could anybody possibly even think of looking like that? Why the heck would you want to?

You have to be you! What looks wonderful on somebody else may look ghastly on you. You can’t expect to look like Angelina Jolie.

How do you start your day?

I don’t have any routines. Some days it’s a good day and some days it’s not such a good day. We [my husband and I] try to make it the best it can possibly be. When you get older (my mother had a friend who used to say this), everything you have two of – one hurts. But I would tell everybody to keep as busy as possible, because if you have obligations and things to do, you can put any problems aside and stop kvetching. You can’t sit home and think about yourself and lick your wounds. (I mean, if it’s something serious that’s a different story.) But you’ve got to roll with the punches.

What are some of your favorite New York restaurants?

I love Italian food. I like SD26, Antonucci Café, and Primola. I like good Chinese food but it’s hard to find. I love La Grenouille; that’s the granddaddy of all restaurants. It’s beautiful; it’s an experience. I like to go to a restaurant and I like everybody to look nice. At La Grenouille everybody looks good. At some of the other places, everybody looks like they’re going to the gym!

Do you notice a difference in how people dress at restaurants and the lack of getting dressed up like they used to?

Do I notice? You’d have to be blind! I mean, you spend a fortune on tickets to the opera – and we used to go black tie – and now you sit next to someone with dirty jeans and a ragged t-shirt. That’s not right. And you don’t have to be expensively dressed – just simple and nice. It has definitely changed.

If there is one way you think a woman can always look put together, no matter how simple her outfit, what would it be?

I think if your hair is coiffed, and you have good shoes, that takes care of it!

*Iris Apfel, photographed in New York City by Danielle Kosann.