As an interior designer, Iris Apfel had a client list that included Greta Garbo, Marjorie Merriweather Post, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Estee Lauder. But that is not what she is known for. Apfel is famous for being fabulous, or to be more accurate, dressing fabulously.
The 96-year-old Apfel, who splits her time between Palm Beach and Manhattan, is a self-made glamazon and enthusiastic fashionphile. Her wardrobe is compiled from shopping in everything from designer ateliers to flea markets during her international travels and is so eye-popping that it got a 2005 exhibit at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which in 2007 sent the show to West Palm Beach’s Norton Museum of Art.
Apfel has a new book out titled “Accidental Icon — Musings of a Geriatric Starlet.” She will hold a book signing 2-5 p.m. Wednesday, April 25, at the J. Nelson showroom, 2866 Pershing St., in Hollywood (in the South Florida Design Park). For more information, call 954-929-8880.
“I wanted to amuse some of my fans and do something for my younger fans, you know something affordable and easier to carry,” she says of the book.
More than 60 years ago, Apfel strutted onto the world’s style stage as an interior designer looking for hard-to-find exotic and antique textiles. Realizing a gap in the market, she and her husband, Carl, started Old World Weavers, an international textile manufacturer. Their exquisite workmanship and encyclopedic knowledge of fabrics from around the world made them the go-to-couple for 1 percenters from all over the globe. She and Carl (who died in 2015) helped with White House restoration projects for nine presidents, from Harry. S. Truman to Bill Clinton.
Apfel has parlayed her fame as a style icon into an empire that includes a makeup collection for MAC Cosmetics, a jewelry line for HSN and, just last month, her own Barbie doll. In 2014, she became the subject of the documentary “Iris” by filmmaker Albert Maysles (“Gimme Shelter,” “Grey Gardens”).
Here are excerpts from a recent phone interview with Apfel.
How did this book come about?
I had been badgered since I did the first book, oh my, 11 years ago. It was a great success. People wanted me to do another book, but I didn’t want to do another coffee table. And memoirs — I didn’t want to do that. How-to books I find revolting. I don’t think anyone should tell you what to do. How can you tell someone about style if you don’t know who you are talking to? Three different publishing companies called me with the same idea. How would you like to do a book with musings? Things you think about, some of your sayings, anecdotes, maybe a little travel. I said that sounds like fun. That’s how it came about.
I know you go back and forth between your apartment on Park Avenue in New York and your apartment in Palm Beach. So what do you love about South Florida?
I have wonderful friends here. That is paramount. I have a beautiful apartment on the lakes. I love the view. It’s very restful and relaxing. It’s the complete antithesis of New York. I like New York, but I like this, too. This is perfect
You once said, “To stay young, think young.” What did you mean by that?
You have to be with young people and enjoy some of their activities and partake a little bit of what they do so you can be with it. You just can’t talk about it. You have to do it. I fortunately have a lot of young friends. They could be my grandchildren, really.
You also said you never expected to write a book. In fact, you never expect anything. Is that true?
I very rarely do. It’s much better that way. And then, if it happens, it’s lovely, and you’re not disappointed if it doesn’t. It’s not so much I don’t expect things. I don’t plan things. I never had a business plan. Things just happen, and I go with the flow.
When you do book signings and meet and greets, do people feel obligated to dress up for you?
You have to ask them. Sometimes, the people say, “I got all dressed up for you.” I don’t think that’s necessary at all, but if it makes them feel better, then I’m flattered.