The Iris Apfel documentary

— by Alyson Walsh

IRIS Apfel-superJumbo

Photo: Bruce Weber

Everyone loves Iris. And so do I. In the late Albert Maysles film, designers, editors and fashion executives are falling all over themselves to orbit the ‘geriatric starlet’. If you love life and style, you’ll love this heartwarming documentary (out in the UK, today; Fri 25 July 2015). Iris was one of the ‘Inspirational Women’ I interviewed for my book, calling her up in New York and hearing her nasally, ‘Hello Ap-fel residence,’ on the other end of the line was one of my highlights. She’s sharp, she’s no-nonsense and she’s full of life. Iris the movie is as colourful and brilliant as one of the New York nonagenarian’s crazy outfits.

From the opening soundtrack – the sound of Iris’ jewellery jangling – we go behind-the-scenes in New York and Palm Beach. ‘It’s a total trip. It’s always Christmas here,’ says photographer Bruce Weber as the camera pans to a toy Kermit the Frog sitting on an ostrich in the New York pad. The couple, who’ve been married for 67 years are absolutely wonderful together; warm and funny and very loving. ‘He was cool, he was cuddly and he cooked Chinese,’ she quips. ‘It’s never a dull marriage. You never know what’s going to happen with this kid,’ adds 100-year-old Carl, ‘She’s very talented, I think I’ll keep her.’

Photo: Rex

Photo: Rex

Just how remarkable the soon-to-be 94-year-old woman is hits home when you see her shopping, in a wheelchair, with the designer Duro Olowu. It’s not all baubles and soundbites, husband Carl is not very well with a coronary issue, but Apfel ‘lives in the present’ and does so with humour. She tells a tale about the Rare Bird of Fashion exhibition, where her nephew overhears visitors assuming she’s dead,’ I told him to tell them “My auntie is very much alive. She’s just walking around to save funeral expenses.”‘


It’s a fantastic film, a real joy, and *spoiler alert* here are some my favourite Apfel-isms:

‘My mother worshipped at the alter of accessories. She could do things with a scarf that I have never seen anyone do.’

On plastic surgery, ‘Oh god no, I’m very opposed to that, unless god gave you a nose like Pinocchio or you’re in a fire. You could come out looking like a Picasso.’

‘Colour is so important. Colour can raise the dead.’

‘Carl is very happy to be sailing into his second century.’

When asked regularly how she is, Iris’s response is always, ‘Well, I’m vertical so I’m happy.’ What an amazing woman.

Keep Reading

How to wear army green (or my new favourite colour combination)

Everyone loves Iris. And so do I.