Earlier this month, at the start of Fashion Week, a well-heeled crowd descended upon Paris’s Le Bon Marché, craning over velvet ropes and between body guards to catch a glimpse of 94-year-old style icon Iris Apfel. Clad in a shaggy, orange fur coat and blocky turquoise jewellery, Apfel seemed unruffled as the staccato sparkle of camera flashes reflected off the lenses of her enormous spectacles—those two iconic open-mouthed “o”s of surprise and delight through which she sees the world.
The occasion for this fanfare was the inauguration of Iris in Paris, a highly-anticipated collaboration between fashion’s geriatric darling and the city’s historic luxury department store. On until March 26, the exhibit features 10 outfits compiled from Apfel’s vast and varied personal collection. Each ensemble has been curated to suit imaginary outings in the fashionable French capital, from visiting the flea market to exploring the Seine on a bateau mouche. Accessories created in collaboration between the grande dame, Le Bon Marché, and some of the city’s eminent artisans are an exciting bonus available to the public. Pieces include a multipurpose bag made of Mongolian wool, a bow tie in collaboration with Cinabre Paris, elegant ostrich-leather notebooks, and long, geometric necklaces made with jeweller Marion Vidal.
Since her gargantuan wardrobe was exhibited at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 2005 to much acclaim, Apfel has been at the center of the fashion world’s attention, being profiled in a documentary film, appearing in Vogue, and landing campaigns with—among others—Kate Spade, MAC, and Citroën. The dynamic nonagenarian is on a roll and she shows no signs of slowing down, as this latest transatlantic collaboration testifies. We (barely) caught up with Apfel in the city of lights to get her take on Iris in Paris.
What was your method for putting together these 10 outfits for Le Bon Marché?
I worked very closely with the Le Bon Marché team to narrow it down. My collection is huge and I have a great memory, so the team and I worked hand in hand and did what editors do: edit, edit, edit! These outfits feature items I love, and that are staples in my wardrobe: colour, fun, and accessories.
Any pieces in the collection you’re particularly fond of?
The Selima [Optique] glasses. I love sunglasses—they’re my favourite!
What is your history with Paris?
A long love story! My first time in Paris was around 1954, I think. It was for business and pleasure, and I became mesmerized. I haven’t been to Paris in about 10 years, but I used to come twice a year before that.
Your favourite thing about the city?
The architecture is my favorite thing. Even though I haven’t been in Paris in 10 years, it still looks the same. The flea markets and Saint-Pierre for fabric are always a must on my list.
What do you think of the French aesthetic?
The French love perennial classics, timeless taste and fashion… they’re very chic. I appreciate that aesthetic, but would classify myself as more daring. I love colour, as well as mixing fabrics and prints.
Any tips for those looking to do a little sartorial experimentation but who don’t know where to start?
Have fun, be yourself, and don’t be afraid to try something new!
Photo by Noa Griffel.