Fashion Icon Iris Apfel Dead at 102

Iris Apfel, who was known for her larger-than-life accessories and vibrant sense of style, passed away 102 on March 1. Look back on her electrifying life.

By Alyssa Morin Mar 02, 2024 2:28 AMTags
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The fashion world has lost a legend.

Iris Apfel—who was known for her more is more approach to accessorizing, her eccentric sense of style and iconic giant rounded glasses—died on March 1, per her official Instagram account. She was 102.

Lori Sale, the larger-than-life star's agent, confirmed she passed away in her Palm Beach, Fla. home.

"Iris Apfel was extraordinary," Sale said in a statement to E! News. "Working alongside her was the honor of a lifetime. I will miss her daily calls, always greeted with the familiar question: 'What have you got for me today?'"

The agent reflected on the interior designer's illustrious career, noting that she was focused on her craft more than ever.

"She was a visionary in every sense of the word," Sale continued. "She saw the world through a unique lens—one adorned with giant, distinctive spectacles that sat atop her nose. Through those lenses, she saw the world as a kaleidoscope of color, a canvas of patterns and prints. Her artistic eye transformed the mundane into the extraordinary and her ability to blend the unconventional with the elegant was nothing short of magical."

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Iris had shown no signs of slowing down in recent years. She not only launched a vibrant clothing collection with H&M in April 2022, but that same year, she collaborated with Ciaté London on a makeup line.

"I love to work and surround myself with people who give me lots of inspiration," she told People in September 2022. "To close your mind and think you know everything is foolish."

The New Yorker, whose signature style consisted of over-the-top accessories (including her trademark round-frame glasses), an electrifying red lip and colorful prints or pieces, first entered the fashion world as a copywriter for Women's Wear Daily.

Early in her career, she also worked as an interior designer for Elinor Johnson, where she gained recognition for finding rare pieces.

Noam Galai/Getty Images for Central Park Tower

 

It wasn't until 1950 that she and her husband Carl Apfel, who passed in August 2015, started a textile company, Old World Weavers. 

In addition to running the company, Iris oversaw many restoration projects for the White House, working for nine presidents, including Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

In 2005, Iris was honored for her individuality by the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute with an exhibit titled Rara Avis (Rare Bird): The Irreverent Iris Apfel. This marked the first time the museum had ever created a clothing or accessories exhibit on a living person who wasn't a designer.

There's no denying that Iris, who always said that "more is more and less is a bore," has left an indelible mark.

"Being stylish and being fashionable are two entirely different things," she reminded her Instagram followers in August 2022. "You can easily buy your way into being fashionable. Style, I think, is in your DNA. It implies originality and courage. And the worst that can happen when you take a risk is that you fail. And you don't die from that."

John Aquino/Footwear News/Penske Media via Getty Images

 

In the wake of Iris' passing, many in the fashion world paid tribute to the sartorial icon, with designer Tommy Hilfiger telling E! News in a statement, "She has had an amazing effect on so many people with her huge heart and magic touch with everyone she meets. She will go down in history as an innovator and a leader in the world of textiles, style and innovation!"

Meanwhile, jewelry designer Alexis Bittar called Iris his "surrogate Mom."

"Her ability to be frank and tell you her thoughts without editing was a strength that usually comes with age and someone who doesn't give a s--t what you think," he told E! in a statement. "She never stopped working. Her drive with work became an extension of her identity and want to not be ignored because she was 100 years old. Iris is original but she became someone that would shape so many peoples lives."

He added, "People would take little bits of her, her life gave them the strength and a model of what it truly can look like to age."

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