US fashion designer Iris Apfel dies aged 102on March 2, 2024 at 7:53 am

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The self-described geriatric starlet was known for her distinctive white hair and oversized glasses.

Designer Iris Apfel poses for a photo at 92nd Street Y on May 2, 2018 in New York CityImage source, Getty Images

American designer and fashion icon Iris Apfel has died at the age of 102.

The self-described “geriatric starlet” was known for her distinctive cropped white hair, oversized glasses, bright lipstick and chunky beads.

Apfel reached the peak of her fame in the 1980s and 90s, but was a familiar face at Paris fashion shows for more than half a century.

She also served a host of celebrity clients, including Greta Garbo and Estée Lauder.

Her death was announced to her almost three million followers on Instagram, with a picture of Apfel sporting her renowned oversized round glasses.

US designer Tommy Hilfiger was among those to pay tribute as he praised Apfel as an “innovator and leader” in the world of textiles and style, who “will go down in history”.

“Iris Apfel has become a world-famous fashion icon because of her incredible talent not only as an artist, but as an influencer,” he said.

“She has had an amazing effect on so many people with her huge heart and magic touch with everyone she meets.”

US singer Lenny Kravitz and Ted Lasso actress Hannah Waddingham also paid tribute.

Born to a Jewish family in New York in 1921, Apfel originally studied the history of art and specialised in interior design, particularly textiles.

She worked as an interior designer for decades, including on restoration projects at the White House, before becoming a trend setter in her 80s and a professional model at 97.

‘A kaleidoscope of colour’

Apfel’s agent Lori Sale said working alongside her was “the honour of a lifetime”.

“I will miss her daily calls, always greeted with the familiar question: ‘What have you got for me today?’ Testament to her insatiable desire to work,” Ms Sale said.

“She was a visionary in every sense of the word. She saw the world through a unique lens – one adorned with giant, distinctive spectacles that sat atop her nose.

“Through those lenses, she saw the world as a kaleidoscope of colour, a canvas of patterns and prints.

“Her artistic eye transformed the mundane into the extraordinary and her ability to blend the unconventional with the elegant was nothing short of magical.”

Iris Apfel and Carl Apfel attend ACNE PAPER Launches Issue Number Seven at McGraw Rotunda

Image source, Getty Images

Jean Paul Gaultier and Iris Apfel in New York City in September 2006

Image source, Getty Images

In 2014, she was the subject of a documentary, Iris, made by acclaimed director Albert Maysles.

Speaking to BBC Newsnight in 2015, she said she thought “dressing up should be fun” and was a “chance to play”.

“It’s part of my life because I’m a creative person and I think other people should indulge in a bit of creativity,” she said.

Asked what she thought of the idea of age-appropriate dress, she said that “if you can pull it off, it’s appropriate”.

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