Iris Apfel has been described as the most stylish 93-year-old on the planet and an inspiration to adventurous dressers of all ages. But the star of the new Albert Maysles documentary, Iris, out on April 29, still doesn't understand what all the fuss is about. Here, she dishes on what it's like to be a style icon, the secret to a happy life, and her favorite color.
In the film you cite a sense of humor and curiosity as the most important elements of life. Why so?
"Those are the two great gifts I received in the cradle. I find them sadly lacking in this world. A sense of humor is the secret to everything—a good relationship, a good marriage, a good digestion. Curiosity, to me, is paramount. Young people have completely confused curiosity with pushing a button. Curiosity requires involving yourself. You'll get much more out of the answer."
How would you describe your style?
"I don't like to describe it because I don't know what it is. I have no formulas. If it feels good in the pit of my tummy, then I know it's right."
What is it like to be called a style icon?
"It's better to work. There are very few people with really original style today, since so many people get styled."
Do you feel different when you're all dressed up?
"I feel better. Sometimes I look in the mirror and I say, "Yuck!" But when I get it right, it's like wearing a suit of armor."
What motivates you to continue to make an effort in getting dressed?
"I try to get older people out of their seats and let them know they still have a life."
Do you have any fashion don'ts?
"Do not slavishly follow trends. They look silly. You've got to know who you are. I always say if you're going to wear something just to be in fashion and you're uptight about it, it's better just to be out of style."
What's the secret to a happy life?
"Live fully. Experience everything you can. It is important to love and be loved, to share, to learn, and then to impart any wisdom you can to others. Be charitable. It sounds corny, but nothing is so corny as the truth. Nobody uses corny anymore, do they? Shame. It was a good word."
Apfel says she's never met a hue she didn't like. Her fave? "Red makes me happy," she says. "It suits me—it's vibrant and full of life."