Fashion Icon Iris Apfel Dies at 102

iris apfel100th birthday party at central park tower
Fashion Icon Iris Apfel Dies at 102Noam Galai - Getty Images

Fashion and style icon Iris Apfel has died at the age of 102. Apfel had celebrated her half birthday on leap day in a post on her massively popular Instagram, having been born on August 29, 1921. The next day, Friday, March 1, another post revealed she had passed with the dates of her birth and death.

Born in New York City to Samuel and Sadye Barrel, Apfel grew up surrounded by fashion. Her mother ran a boutique that immersed her in it from a young age. She was first known for her expertise in textiles and antique fabrics and owned a textile manufacturing company, Old World Weavers, with her husband Carl. During her long and storiedcareer, she specialized in restoration work, and did design at the White House during the terms of six different presidents.

Her more modern claim to fame came in 2005 after a show dedicated to her became popular at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. The show was called “Rara Avis,” which is Latin for “rare bird.”

She then became quite popular on social media, with three million followers on Instagram and over 300,000 on TikTok. There, she displayed her colorful, eye-catching style, with vibrant textiles and jewelry, plus her always present iconic round glasses. She received a modeling contract in 2019 with IMG when she was 97.

After turning 100 years old, she told Today why she never retired while promoting a new collaboration with H&M that sold out in minutes.

“Oh, I love to work. It’s fun because I enjoy it,” Apfel stated. “And then I can help people. I can give employment. People tell me I inspire them. So many good things come out of it. I think retiring at any age is a fate worse than death. Just because a number comes up doesn’t mean you have to stop.”

Apfel’s husband Carl died in 2015; the two had no children.

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