Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Style Maven: Iris Apful

In light of the MET Costume Institute's new exhibition "Charles James: Beyond Fashion", I thought this would be perfect timing to highlight someone I've been meaning to write about since the beginning of this year: that is Iris Apful. In January and February, my theme for those two months was BE STIMULATED, with my inspiration coming from LINK Jewelry Summit this past April in 2013 in which  I was fortunate to find a panel discussion lead by Member of the Swarovski Executive Board, Nadja Swarovski which featured famed interior designer, Iris Apfel, and President/Creative Director of Kate Spade, Deborah Llyod. As the Costume Institute showed through its exhibition in 2005, "Rara Avis: Selections from the Iris Barrel Apfel Collection", I would love to be able to create as epic of looks as Apful was able to do throughout her life. I am quite inspired by her maximalistic approach to her style, and that she doesn't take herself to seriously.  I love her use of exaggerated accessories, which was the focus of that particular exhibit. Through.Through Apful's eccentric personality and frank remarks to Nadja's inquiries,  I found her responses to be a simple basis for how to look at style. If you are having trouble figuring out how to create a strong, recognizable style let her words be your guiding light. In my fashion, shes very much the real life version of one of my favorite characters, Edna Mode from the Disney movie "The Incredibles". I thought this would be perfect enough a time to include her insights under the theme The Secrets of Stylists because after putting her name in the YouTube search box, she offers a lot of useful advice on living with style, and what that means.

Having worked in the fashion industry for a time, Apful's career snowballed into a very successful one she shared with her husband, and through the years they created a popular textile firm and took on design restoration projects, most notably for the White House through nine different presidencies. Apful, now 93, and as you very well know, I love hearing what our elders have to say about style. I am going to highlight some of my favorite opinions from Apful and Deborah Llyod. Deborah Lloyd started her career in London and got her big break working for Burberry when the brand was revamping and finding it's essence to bring it to life. She then moved to New York to work for Banan Republic and was head of the brand until she went to Kate Spade. Apful's remarks are bitingly amusing, and Llyod, in my fashion, was very inspiring for people interested in a career in fashion. 

On being a spokesmodel for MAC Cosmetics and the secret of success in terms of youthfulness: "I'm the oldest living broad that ever graced a campaign for cosmetics. People have to do something for us old ones. Just because you reach your mark or a certain number, doesn't mean you have to roll up into a ball, and get fat, and forget about how you look. Its a vital population and it should be stimulated. That's one of my missions in life to get people to realize that and people in that group to participate because it works both ways. I think you have to be interested. If your not interested you cant be interesting. When they show adds about retiring they always show these feeble people padding canoes and playing golf, and jumping up and down on tennis courts. Its so ridiculous, there's so lots other things to do . You have to keep your mind active and get with it and stay in the company of young people because they know whats going on, or at least they think they do."

On Home Shopping: "There's a whole population of people who don't want to look like everyone else, and they don't want to be dictated to, and they don't want to be told they have to do this and that. So I offer things people can't find in rural populations or smaller cities, or if they could find them you probably couldn't afford. People should have the opportunity to buy those things and indulge. With Home shopping and their tremendous range of production they are able to do that. "

On individual self-expression: "Individual expression is very important; it's liberating and makes you feel good. People are afraid and they mustn't be afraid. If you make a mistake in what you put together, the fashion police are not going to haul you into jail. Media pressure has frightened American women to death. they all think you have to look a certain way and behave a certain way. Its rather stupid for a 65 or 75 year old women to look at a cosmetic ad and the model is probably a 16 year model with impeccable skin, and the photo has been retouched, how can a women possibly dream she might look like that? I don't see anything wrong with a wrinkle; its kind of badge of honor!"

On the role of "wit" in design: "Wit plays a role in design. Wit and humor are very important. I could never have a friend who didn't have humor. There are people in the world who don't have it, sadly.  I think it was one of the great gifts bestowed upon me. I think wit and humor are life. They should be embodied in how you dress, and how you live, and what you have in your house, and not have everything so perfect. I think Diana Vreeland said, "There is such a thing as too much good taste." Its great when everything is not perfect, because that's what makes you human. It also gives that personal connection to things, you want to have that to anything. There is so much to buy in the world, you want to have that personal connection to make it yours. 

On being happy: "We have to be happy. I think being happy is so important, its more important than being beautiful, or perfectly dressed. Some people work so hard at trying to be happy, and trying to do everything they think they are supposed to do that they are very unhappy. It's kind of silly. Societal pressure is an awful thing."

On good design: "It's all about functionality. Great design doesn't have to cost the world. Great design can be the simplest thing. Everything has to have its function to make it a great design, and it doesn't have to be expensive. Just because things are inexpensive doesn't mean they have to be shoddy, or be bland. Good design should be priceless. Good design last a lifetime. Good design is not trendy, it just works. People shouldn't get to involved in trends.Trends are good for business, but you have to think about what the trends are. Just because something is in doesn't mean its going to look well on you."

On color: "Color is a part of life, and I couldn't live without color. It depends upon my mood, and color implies a whole psychology. There are colors that can make you do things. There are calming colors; they found there are colors that work very well in children's hospitals to help them calm down. I never met a color I didn't love if it was in the right tonality. All colors are wonderful and I think they should be used more than they are. With our brand our whole life [at Kate Spade] is to inspire women to experience life colorfully and not just wear color, always looking on the bright side seeing adventure in everyday, and living life to the full, and going through life never regretting anything."

On her eyeglasses: "When I started to wear glasses, I thought if I have to wear glasses, I might as well wear glasses! People would say, why do you wear such large frames, and I would say, "The bigger to see you." I do these things and , people think i do them for  a reason. I don't. They just happen. IBOBs is a company that makers readers and eyeglasses beautifully done. They asked me to help them do a design and I find that many people buy these things and put their own lens in because you can't find such attractive frames anywhere at such prices. I think all these things have to be accessible. I love high fashion and I think its great, but no one can buy it anymore."

On the Kate Spade expansion: "We started 20 years ago, and we started with the black nylon utilitarian bag and we have about 80 stores in the US and 125 elsewhere. When you go into new markets you have to explain to new customers what your story is and go back to your roots - what your brand stands for but you have to nuance it to cater to the market - you have to travel and experience these place. So there is going to be many travel inspired collections coming up for Kate Spade.

On traveling: I love exotic places, and I am a bazaar freak. I love flea markets and to dig and find, and I found so all the silks so fascinating that the Middle East and North Africa became my favorite points. I like to haggle and I think it's so much fun. Its not the owning of the things but the finding of he thing, the thrill of the hunt I love. I'm glad that I had the opportunity to travel when I did because I saw the end of the old world. The world is so homogenized now. Everything was quite individual quite special. But of course, it's nice to have new experiences because you can't live in the past. You have to use the past as a crutch to the future."

Last words: "Do what you love, because it shows. Get out of the box. There are a lot of things out there that you have to think about and you sometimes have to think about looking in another industry to get some ideas for your own. You cant stay put. Be yourself and do your own thing, but you gotta remember if your going to do your own thing you have to have a thing to do."

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