In one guise or another, it would seem, style has always been at the heart of Iris Apfel's life. Born in Queens, New York, she was the only child of a decorator father and a boutique-owning mother. Having studied art and art history at university, she took a job as a copywriter at Women's Wear Daily, but once she realized it was a dead-end position, she left, first to become an assistant to an interior designer and then to an illustrator.
In 1948, she met Carl Apfel and, after a whirlwind romance, they were married. Two years later, they founded Old World Weavers, a textile company with a client list that grew, over 42 years, to include such illustrious names as Greta Garbo and Estée Lauder and projects as pretigious as design restorations at the White House for no fewer than nine US Presidents.
Apfel become a fixture on the New York social scene in the Fifties, and was soon lauded for her style. She was instantly recognizable, thanks to her eccentric accountrements - most notably her oversized rounded glasses. In 2005, despite having retired years earlier, she was approached by Harold Koda, curator of the city's Costume Institute, who enquired whether she would be interested in exhibiting some of her favorite outfits, jewelry and accesories. The show was a hit and, since then, has transferred to museums in cities across the country. Almost overnight, Apfel - then aged 84 - became the icon she is today, and the subject of photographs for titles and brands across the world.
Throughout the decades, Apfel, now 92, has remained vehemenently true to herself. Refreshingly outspoken, she frequently expresses strong views about fashion trends and industry figures, making her an in-demand consultant and a lively interviewee. When it comes to the secret of her own elegance, her advice is simple: "No amount of money can buy you style. It's just instinctive." So there you have it.