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Iris Apfel

Muse & Businesswoman

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The BoF 500 is the definitive professional index of the people shaping the $2.4 trillion fashion industry, hand-selected by the editors of The Business of Fashion, based on hundreds of nominations received from current BoF 500 members, extensive data analysis and research.


Nonagenarian Iris Apfel (née Barrel) is one of fashion’s most instantly recognisable tastemakers. She has been the subject of several museum exhibitions, a coffee-table book, a documentary and even a campaign for MAC Cosmetics.

Often colourful, always interesting, the bespectacled New Yorker's popularity was once a rare exception to fashion’s love of youth. However, things are changing, and that is in no small part due to the wit, taste and intellect of Apfel, who has described herself as "the world's oldest living teenager."

In 2005, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York premiered an exhibition about Apfel, titled "Rara Avis (Rare Bird): The Irreverent Iris Apfel." Carla Fendi, Giorgio Armani and Karl Lagerfeld were counted among the attendees. Apfel has graced the pages of Vogue Italia (photographed by Bruce Weber), and, at 91 years old, is Dazed's oldest cover star. In January 2019, she was signed to be represented by IMG.

Apfel studied art history at New York University and attended art school at the University of Wisconsin. As a young woman, she worked for Women's Wear Daily and the interior designer Elinor Johnson. She has also acted as an assistant to illustrator Robert Goodman.

In 1948, she married Carl Apfel. Two years later they launched the textile firm Old World Weavers and ran it until they retired in 1992. Apfel once described her textile designs as “classic but over the top” to the London Evening Standard.

Apfel has taken part in several design projects, including work at the White House for nine presidents: Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton.


Old World Weavers

Old World Weavers

1950 - 1982




New York University

New York University

University of Wisconsin

University of Wisconsin

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Vital Statistics

29 August 1921

United States

United States

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