Iris Apfel, influential fashion icon, dies at 102

Iris Apfel, the influential fashion icon and interior decorator who helped restore the White House for nine presidents, died Friday at the age of 102.

Talent agent Lori Sale confirmed her death. Apfel died at home in Palm Beach, she said.

Apfel’s Instagram account posted an image of a stunningly dressed Apfel and the words “August 29, 1921 — March 1, 2024.”

In 2018, at age 96, Apfel appeared on “TODAY” to talk about recent trends and what constitutes style. She was interviewed at Bergdorf Goodman in New York City.

She called ripped denim “insanity” and criticized those who wear athletic clothes for everyday activities, saying, “Athletic wear should be worn at the gym.”

She said those with style are expressive and self-aware.

“You have to be original, but not original to the point where you’re nutsy,” Apfel said. “I think you have to be true to yourself, know yourself, not be a trend follower. You’ve got to take a few risks.”

Apfel was born in 1921 in Astoria, Queens, on Aug. 29, 1921.

As a girl, she was fascinated by her grandmother’s scraps of unused fabric. “What I saw made my eyes pop: a gigantic bunch of little fabric remnants in all sorts of colors and patterns,” she wrote in her 2018 book, “Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon.”

Apfel came to fashion through fabric, founding Old World Weavers, an international textile manufacturing company, with her husband Carl, in 1950, according to her bio from publisher HarperCollins.

Carl died in 2015 at age 100.

Apfel’s eye for detail brought collaborations with many designers and brands, including the White House, where fabric she designed was displayed in the Gold Room, according to the publisher.

According to the book jacket for “Accidental Icon,” Apfel helped style Greta Garbo, Estee Lauder, Montgomery Clift, and Joan Rivers.

In 2005 she became the first person who wasn’t a fashion designer to be the subject of an exhibit at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, HarperCollins said. It featured her clothing and accessories.

The Jewish Women’s Archive said it was around this time that Apfel earned a moniker, “the geriatric starlet.”

She has an IMDB listing for appearances in “Iris,” the 2014 documentary about her, and in 2010’s “Bill Cunningham: New York,” a documentary about the fashion photographer.

The year she released “Accidental Icon,” Mattel revealed two versions of a Barbie Styled by Iris Apfel doll. The company noted in a news release announcing the line that Apfel was the self-described “oldest living teenager.”

True to form, in 2019, at the age of 97, Apfel signed a contract with modeling agency IMG, according to IMDB. She was also featured in ads for brands like M.A.C. cosmetics and Kate Spade.

The author Leandra Medine Cohen wrote a blurb for Apfel’s “Accidental Icon,” stating, “Personal style really originated with Iris Apfel.”

Asked on “TODAY” where she got her passion for fashion, Apfel said, “I guess I was born with it.”

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