Designer Iris Apfel Passes Away At Age 102

Known for her eclectic and colorful style, the designer rose to fame in the 1980s and 90s.

Having just recently celebrated her “102-and-a-half” birthday, interior designer and fashion icon Iris Apfel passed away on March 1, 2024.

Her commercial agent, estate spokesman, and Instagram page all confirmed her death. She died at her home in Palm Beach, Florida of natural causes.

READ ALSO: Style Icon Iris Apfel Is the New Face of Magnum

Iris Apfel recently celebrated her "102-and-a-half" birthday
Image via Instagram @iris.apfel

Heartfelt Tributes

Fellow designer Tommy Hilfiger gave a statement to WWD following the news of Apfel’s passing. He praised her as an “absolute inspiration” who had “impeccable style” and an “incredible presence and aura.”

Donna Karan, founder of DKNY, took to Instagram to remember her old friend. “If I’d have to name who the best dressed woman in the world is, it would be Iris. From head to toe with color, jewelry, and the most beautiful little details, no one understood style like she did,” she wrote.

Iris Apfel was an interior designer and style icon
Image via Instagram @iris.apfel

“The love that surrounded her will be with her forever and ever. I’m so grateful to have known Iris and her wisdom that she shared with us. This isn’t a goodbye, it is a see you later. You’ll always be in my heart Iris with beautiful memories and I can’t thank you enough for that.”

Lily Collins also posted an Instagram story, saying “What a woman. What a legend. What a life.” The actress wore Apfel’s designs in her show Emily in Paris and was able to “express my admiration for her influence.”

Her death was confirmed on her Instagram page
Image via Instagram @iris.apfel

Many stars also left their goodbyes and thanks in the comment section of Apfel’s last Instagram post. “You mastered the art of living. Thank you for your energy and inspiration,” singer Lenny Kravitz wrote.

Ted Lasso star Hannah Waddingham commented “Ohhhhhh. Goodnight and God bless Ma’am. What joy and endless style you brought to so many.”

“That just breaks my heart, but she did show us all what was possible well beyond an age when many have ‘given up.’ Thank you, Iris,” wrote Modern Family actress Julie Bowen.

A Colorful Life Well-Lived

Iris Apfel was born in Queens, New York on August 29, 1921. Some of her earliest jobs include working as a copywriter for Women’s Wear Daily and for interior designer Elinor Johnson, according to The New York Times. 

After marrying Carl Apfel, they opened a textile company called Old World Weavers and ran it until they retired in the early 90s. Some of their most notable work include design projects at the White House under several presidents.

Iris and Carl Apfel
Image via Instagram @iris.apfel

The couple often traveled the world, giving her the opportunity to collect clothing pieces from different countries. According to The Telegraph, she would wear these clothes to her clients’ high-society parties.

In 2005, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute showcased her unique style in an exhibition titled Rara Avis (Rare Bird): The Irreverent Iris Apfel. “With remarkable panache and discernment, she combines colors, textures, and patterns without regard to period, provenance, and, ultimately, aesthetic conventions,” the museum states in its website.

At the age of 97, she signed a major modeling contract with the agency IMG. She became agency-mates with models such as Karlie Kloss, Joan Smalls, Kate Moss, and Bella and Gigi Hadid.

Full of smiles, Iris Apfel lived a colorful and fulfilling life
Image via Instagram @iris.apfel

“I don’t think a number should make any difference and make you stop working. I think retirement is a fate worse than death,” Apfel told WWDRather than walking the runway, she was more interested in print, digital, and collaborations.

“I love to work, and love my work, I feel sorry for people who don’t like what they do. I do it now to the exclusion of everything else, I meet interesting, creative people, my juices flow and I really have a fine time.”

Banner image via Instagram @iris.apfel.

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