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CREATIVITY IS AGELESS: IRIS APFEL

Studio

As the style community flock to the capital for London Fashion Week and the London Design Festival, you might be mistaken to think that creativity and style is the exclusive preserve of the young. The media, social and otherwise, is wall-to-wall twenty-something vloggers and bloggers galore. After having muscled through throngs of them in Soho last week, it was rather refreshing to kick back and watch Iris, the documentary about 94-year old legendary style maven Iris Apfel.

There’s been a lot of hype about the documentary, but it – and Iris – every bit lives up to its colourful reputation. Behind the trademark kooky, oversized spectacles comes the charming cynicism of a seasoned New Yorker and a truly authentic sense of identity. Style is in her DNA (both her parents worked in design/fashion) and shows no sign of fading with her advancing years. While Iris may not be up to long walks anymore – she is seen being wheeled around the discount stores in Harlem – her creative appetite, as well as her desire to negotiate the best price, is enduring. So too was her incredibly touching personal and professional 68-year long relationship with her centenarian husband Carl, who sadly passed away this August.

As a creative, the most noticeable thing for me was Iris’s observation that she’s never been fond of the pretty or obvious. At one point she comments that there’s no point her getting up early for the flea market at 6am. If there’s stuff she likes, it’ll still be there at 11am! It’s this that truly distinguishes her, and is the key to her success. Iris has innate creativity and sense of style: the ability to create something stylish through surprise or juxtaposition, whether it be through the unusual shape or form of a necklace or the combination of opposing colours or textures. Her laser-like gaze allows her to draw on what isn’t fashionable or on trend; to clash and combine to great effect. It’s this kind of approach that can elevate design from good to great

By constantly creating without the confines of convention, fad and fashion, Iris has made a name for herself that has caught the imagination despite her advanced age. Or, perhaps, even because of it. It sometimes feels that the focus on youth in the creative industries can, at times, leads to chasing trends rather than birthing new ideas, so it’s absolutely refreshing to see her uncompromising approach. Passion and creative instinct don’t have to dilute with age, although if you look around the fashion and design industries you would certainly believe it to be so based on the age of its workforce! On the contrary, could age bring with it greater creative freedom? Quite very possibly: the older we become, the less we’re typically constrained by our perception of what others think. Perhaps we all – whatever our age – should be a little more Iris!