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My Creative Hero: Iris Apfel

ITBs SVP, Lauren Stillman, tells LBB Online all about her creative hero, Iris Apfel

Who would you say is your creative hero?

Without a doubt it’s Iris Apfel – American businesswoman, interior designer and absolute fashion icon

How long has she been important to you and what are your first memories of meeting her or coming across her work?

I was first introduced to Iris by my former boss Carla Blizzard who had a beautiful coffee table book about Iris, which was well before the documentary ‘Iris’ came out in 2014. What struck me first about Iris was that here was a unique looking older woman with a clear sense of style that was her own. I always joke that she looks like she’s put on every single jewel that she owns (of course, she has much more than she’s wearing at that time) but in my mind, that’s the best way to spend a day.

There was something really captivating about her in this book. As I researched more about her, it was clear she was a socialite and very well known in fashion circles, especially in New York. For someone like me who grew up in Dallas, Texas then moved to California for college, the idea of someone in this art and fashion world seemed like a far-off fantasy but I was always bemused by her.

Then, when the documentary came out, one of my friends who was a Hollywood producer got me tickets to a private screening. That was meant to be the first time meeting her, before the screening but she ended up not making it. That was my first near miss. The second missed connection was when ITB Worldwide hosted its ‘ITB in Conversation’ panel in New York in 2019 to discuss true diversity in casting. Iris Apfel was a guest speaker but unfortunately another icon in my life – my grandmother – had just passed away so I wasn’t able to attend. Another near miss.

The first time I did actually meet her was when I moved to New York in 2017. Within the first few months of living in Brooklyn, I saw through her Instagram account that she was launching a new coffee table book and doing a signing a mile away from the office. I ran out the door, stood in line, got the book and she signed it. I got to meet her one more time after that at a jewellery trunk show at Macy’s.

How did you go about finding out more about her and her work?

There’s a lot of content that exists about Iris. She turned 100 this year but from working with her and her teams, it’s clear that she just wants to keep working. She’s done a lot of collaborations, been featured in magazines. True fashion people have really embraced her and she’s still growing in popularity. A proud moment for me was when she reposted my Instagram post when I dressed as her for Halloween.

Why is she such an inspiration to you?

One of the reasons she is so inspiring is that she truly lives by her own style rules. She’s created a look that is truly her own and fans pay homage to her style. I really admire that doing it your way, trailblazing vibe. She’s a maximalist – if I’m being true and dressing true to who I am, I’m going to wear all my sparkly jewelry at the same time. It became clear when I moved to New York – especially Brooklyn – they don’t really care either, it’s all about expressing yourself however you want. I like that.

How does she influence you in your approach to your creative work?

Iris inspires me to be bold and to listen to my own instincts. If I like it, I stand behind it. It’s always easy to second guess yourself but at the end of the day, if I’m being Iris, I don’t care. That’s where I try to drive inspiration through my work.

What piece or pieces of her work do you keep coming back to and why?

It’s wonderful that Iris is still so active on Instagram and she keeps putting out content that always has the same flavour. I like the flavour and enjoy it every time.

And you only have to look at some of her famous quotes – you could write a bible with them, on her determination to enjoy life and stay true to yourself. A few of my favourites are: “I’m not pretty, and I’ll never be pretty, but it doesn’t matter. I have something much better. I have style” and “life is grey and dull; you might as well have a little fun when you dress”.

I just wish that Iris could be preserved somehow because she’s happy and that happiness shines through in what she wears. That’s part of why she’s so inspiring. It’s hard to look at Iris and not smile. Each year my birthday comes around, I just don’t care or fear getting older, because it means I’m one step closer to being Iris.

The original article can be found here: 

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