Iris Apfel defies every fashion rule that exists…and does it with great panache. So it was only a matter of time before the nonagenarian fashion icon, who became an overnight sensation (via the camera lens of Ari Seth Cohen’s Advanced Style blog) was enlisted to develop her own fashion collection. And last month was the big reveal: a collaboration with Macy’s INC label featuring 40 pieces in bold patterns and colors reflecting her vibrant style sensibility.
These are mostly Spring-wear, and largely designed to please her large following of women-of-a-certain age. But the collection definitely is not geared to older women solely, as witnessed by the sleeveless tops, mini skirts, mini dresses, and tank tops.
And Apfel is not a celeb-utante designer-come-lately. She truly understands construction: “My mother knew if you bought a couple of really good architectural outfits and put your money into accessories, you could create a million different looks. She taught that to me, which I think was invaluable.”
Smartly, she starts with some structural “anchor” pieces in basic black that include bootcut trousers, some rather elegant (and downright sexy) shirring on her high necked and mock necked LBDs and tanks, and gives a nod to the trends with cutouts on the bodices, off-shoulder and strappy tops, lace-y and sheer juliette sleeves on the tunics (or mini dresses, depending on who is wearing them) and some velvet trim on the fitted long sleeve tees.
But then she segues into her theme for this collection, clearly an era she holds dear: the 60’s. There are flowy tops, bell-bottom suede pants, color blocked (faux?) leather skirts, patchwork suede skirts, and a-line dresses. And a few statement tees with her iconic round glasses are thrown in just for fun.
Overall, the collection has a very 60’s vacation-type vibe, kind of Lili Pulitzer meets Peter Max. And her palette is true to the era. Saturated oranges, browns and reds are found in solid tops, in bell bottoms and flowing maxi dresses of Max-like paisleys, in the leather and suede skirts, and dresses in half-circle patterns of red, black, burgundy and white.
And in case all that wasn’t enough to get you noticed, there’s her trademark fuzzy fuchia pompom necklace.
For outerwear she features a snakeskin print moto jacket that was a nicely tough counterpoint to the LBD worn with it, (Iris does tough well) and a snakeskin trench in the same material.
Multi-generational category aside, except for the classic black pieces the collection isn’t for everyone. In spite of her motto of “more is more and less is a bore” the intensity of the colors and scale of the patterns would simply overwhelm some women. Even she acknowledges that, “Clothes are often good and bad in relation to the person who’s wearing them. Some people can get away with things that would make somebody else look like a horse’s ass.”
But for herself, and in what she designs, she chooses colors and patterns that bring her joy. She and her late husband traveled the world, curating ethnic textiles and jewelry to bring back to their New York design clients and the love of wild, vibrant color is fundamental to her aesthetic.
[Note: I’ve tried for some time to figure out just what Apfel’s personal color “harmony” is. Her eyes are a lovely shade of gray-blue, her early photographs show her as a blonde, and her face shape is more round than the oval typical of the Winter type, a palette she favors. All that would suggest she’s a combination of a Spring and Fall palette. And the early photos of her in exotic locales suggest she has a lot of the Natural style essence.]
And of course, she never met an accessory she didn’t like. Her Iris X collection for Macy’s features acrylic bangles galore in black, and poker-chip red, white and blue, oversized chunky linked necklaces of the same material plus in an orangey-amber, Crystal studded cuffs in black or white, and an asymmetrical clear translucent, a carved black, and a black and white or black and blue striped cuff.
The good news: unlike couture, this is a collection of things that a lot of women will actually wear, they are well made, available in regular and plus sizes, and best of all, everything is under $200. What’s not to love?