It’s never too late to get yourself a modeling agent.
“I’m very excited. I never had a proper agent,” said Apfel, in a telephone interview Wednesday. She said she previously handled deals herself.
“I’m a do-it-yourself girl. I never expected my life would take this turn so I never prepared for it. It all just happened so suddenly, and I thought at my tender age, I’m not going to set up offices and get involved with all kinds of things. I thought it was a flash in the pan, and it’s not going to last. Somehow, people found me. People would just call. Tommy Hilfiger said that was no way to do it, and he put us together. I’m very excited and very grateful,” said Apfel.
Ivan Bart, president of IMG Models and IMG Fashion Properties, said, “Iris is an icon with immeasurable talent. She radiates creativity and inspiration and we’re so excited to explore new and unique opportunities with her, where her natural gifts can be shared with the world. At 97 years old, Iris continues to prove that age is just a number and shouldn’t be something that defines you.”
Apfel started her own textile company, Old World Weavers, in 1950 with her late husband, Carl. Aside from having a hand in nine restoration projects at the White House during her multidecade career, she has racked up her share of ad campaigns in recent years including Kate Spade, MAC Cosmetics, Alexis Bittar, HSN and Le Bon Marché.
Describing what she’s looking to do, Apfel quipped, “I don’t know. Just stick around.”
While Apfel said she’s not interested in runway, she feels print, digital and collaborations are probably more in her future. “How can I compete on runway? That’s ridiculous. We’ll be doing hopefully collaborations, or maybe I’ll be a spokesperson. I leave it to them. They know better than I. I’ve had all kinds of interesting commissions in my limited career. Everything from vodka and automobiles to beauty products, and I’ve also had a number of interesting collaborations with big stores like Bon Marché in Paris, the Landmark Mall in Hong Kong, Macy’s and Bergdorf Goodman.” For the last eight years, Apfel has been working with Home Shopping Network, where she designs ready-to-wear, jewelry and accessories. “I design it and then I go on the air and peddle it. It’s great fun, and I love it. I have a very interesting clientele that pleases me to no end, everything from young ladies to drag queens,” she said.
When she launched her book, “Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon” at Bergdorf’s last year, she had the windows and a pop-up shop. She brought a number of pieces from her own vintage collection, and Ru Paul bought one of the necklaces, she said. She’s also doing a project with Bernardaud on Park Avenue and 59th Street, which makes beautiful porcelain. She’s doing a collection of statement pieces. And she has a collaboration with a glassware company called Nude based in Istanbul.
Asked what she attributes all the interest in her to, she said, “I wonder about that. My husband, until he passed on, we used to sit there and laugh and laugh, and I’d say I’m no different than I was 70 years ago, and all of a sudden, I’m cool, I’m a hot property. It’s ridiculous. People tell me it’s because I’m real…and say what I think.”
Apfel said she doesn’t exercise and credits her longevity to good fortune and the man upstairs. “My mother lived to 100, but my father died really young. I don’t live an exemplary life. I don’t exercise as much as I should…I’m starting to walk again. I eat simply, I don’t eat junk food. I drink in a very limited way. I don’t smoke. I used to smoke four packs a day. I stopped 50 years ago,” said Apfel.
The idea of modeling definitely appeals to her.
“I enjoy it very much. It’s very tiring. I can see why they get paid big bucks. It’s great fun. I like it a lot. Who would think I would be a 97-year-old cover girl?”
In 2005, Apfel was the first living person, who was not a designer, to have her clothing and accessories exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in an exhibition titled “Rara Avis (Rare Bird): The Irreverent Iris Apfel.” In 2014, director Albert Maysles released a documentary on Iris’ life, titled “Iris” and in 2018, Harper Collins released “Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon,” a biography of Apfel’s colorful life.
She is now the subject of several museum exhibitions, a coffee table book, an award-winning documentary film, a Vogue Italia spread, and a Dazed & Confused cover (the oldest cover feature ever at 91 years old). In 2016, she appeared in an ad campaign for Melbourne-based retailer Blue Illusion. She was also the subject of an exhibition at Paris department store Le Bon Marché in 2016. “Iris in Paris” included window displays and a pop-up store with display cabinets showcasing 10 outfits Apfel put together for various activities in the French capital.
Addressing the growing movement of women in their 70s and 80s — and even 90s — actively pursuing their careers, Apfel said, “I don’t think a number should make any difference and make you stop working. I think retirement is a fate worse than death. I love to work, and love my work. I feel sorry for people who don’t like what they do. I do it now to the exclusion of everything else. I meet interesting, creative people, my juices flow and I really have a fine time.”