Iris Apfel is an American businesswoman, interior designer, and fashion icon.
Born Iris Barrel in Astoria, Queens, New York, Apfel is the only child of Samuel Barrel, whose family owned a glass-and-mirror business, and his Russian-born wife, Sadye, who owned a fashion boutique.
She studied art history at New York University and attended art school at the University of Wisconsin. As a young woman, Apfel worked for Women’s Wear Daily and for interior designer Elinor Johnson. She also was an assistant to illustrator Robert Goodman.
In 1948, she married Carl Apfel. Two years later, they launched the textile firm Old World Weavers and ran it until they retired in 1992. From 1950 to 1992, Iris Apfel took part in several design restoration projects, including work at the White House for nine presidents: Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton.
At age 90 in 2012, Apfel was a visiting professor at University of Texas at Austin.
Apfel consults and lectures about style and other fashion topics. In 2013, she was listed as one of the fifty best-dressed over 50s by The Guardian.
In 2005, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City premiered an exhibition about Apfel titled Rara Avis (Rare Bird): The Irreverent Iris Apfel. The exhibit’s success prompted a traveling version of the exhibit, which included stops at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida, the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn Harbor, New York, and the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts.
The Museum of Lifestyle & Fashion History in Boynton Beach, Florida is in the conceptual phase of designing a building which will house a dedicated gallery of Apfel‘s clothes, accessories and furnishings.