People keep asking Iris Apfel what it’s like to be 100, but she tells them it’s only been a few days.
Although her centennial was Aug. 29, the interior designer and cultural wunderkind celebrated the milestone in high style — as in the skyscraper kind — Thursday night. Katie Holmes, Tommy Hilfiger, Donna Karan, Dee Ocleppo, Samira Nasr, Bruce Weber, CT Hedden, Alexis Bittar, Lynn Tesoro, Hal Rubenstein, Mickey Boardman, Timo Weiland and Fern Mallis were among the well wishers, who circled through the party. Michael Feinstein followed up a rendition of “Happy Birthday” at the piano with “Roll Out the Barrel” and “I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore.”
Up on the 107th floor of Central Park Tower, the guest of honor was surrounded by a scrum of friends, handlers and photographers. Unmistakable in a canary yellow H&M ensemble, her signature oversize oval black glasses and a French chiffon, as Apfel moved from the piano, to blowing out birthday candles and then to a five-foot tower of Champagne glasses bubbling with Pol Roger, the huddle moved with her.
H&M cohosted the bash with Harper’s Bazaar. Apfel, a master marketer, has a new collaborative collection with the fast retailer. Her likeness was everywhere in the party — windowfrance.art’s neon-colored figurines of Apfel rested on tables around the room and a gigantic portrait of Apfel shot by Ruven Afanador hung from the main wall.
Proof of vaccination was not the only requirement for entry. Before stepping foot in the Central Park Tower’s lobby, everyone in the 250-person crowd had to take a rapid COVID-19 test in a shelled-out space a block or so east on 57th Street. While Hilfiger, Ocleppo and others gamely waited in line for the slow-moving process, a few with dinner plans like Naeem Khan did an about-face.
What was supposed to be a 15-minute detour stretched past an hour, after organizers ran out of rapid tests. Thanks to a drug store run, self tests were proffered — not that anyone knew how to use them though. And the directions were in Spanish. But guests persevered. “Anything for Iris,” one mused while self-swabbing both nostrils.
Hilfiger, who will receive the first Iris Apfel award from the Peabody Essex Museum next week, described her as “a very dear friend, a true one of-a-kind.”
The designer praised Apfel’s sense of style as “incredible,” adding, “I loved what she was wearing. I loved the yellow outfit, too.” He added that, “She’s an enigma by the way, she remembers everything. She tells us stories from the past that are beyond. Her apartment is a museum.”
Ocleppo also shared kind words: “Her attitude is really what the secret is. She’s so engaged with everything that is going on around her. She wants to go out and look great and be engaged with young people. And she’s got an insane sense of humor. She maintains her curiosity and her energy, too. I want to be just like her when I grow up.”
Fashion photographer Bruce Weber made a rare party appearance for his friend Apfel, “She plays. She has a really big heart. She’s really interested in everything. And she’s just a lot of fun.” Weber said.
Another lensman, Gideon Lewis, paid homage to the guest of honor by sporting three pairs of her owl-eyed glasses on top of his head. His wife, designer Joanna Mastroianni, also pulled out all the stops wearing a gown and patent hat.
Having been friendly with Apfel for 10 years, Edward Bess, who collaborated with her for a makeup collection, said of his partner photographer Ruven Afanador and himself, “The whole world loves Iris and we’re not exempt.” He and Afanador spoke enthusiastically about the guest of honor. Afanador said he offered to do a portrait for her while in Palm Beach for another one of her business ventures, Zenni Optical.
Another admirer, Giambattista Valli, provided the dress she wore in the portrait.