Legendary fashion icon Iris Apfel—she of the oversized statement eyeglasses and silver hair—is the subject of a new documentary by legendary Grey Gardens filmmaker Albert Maysles, an opportunity the 93-year-old told Vogue.com she nearly turned down because she “wasn’t interested.”
“I said no. They called me up and asked me if I wanted to do a documentary, and I said I wasn’t interested,” Apfel said. “I told people, and they said I was crazy. [Bergdorf Goodman Senior Vice President] Linda Fargo called me out and said, ‘You have a nerve! I mean, people would drop dead to have Albert even take a still photograph of them, and you’re turning him down. Who the hell do you think you are?’ He called me again and invited me to come up to the studio in Harlem. I met the staff and we all fell in love, and I said, ‘Okay, I’ll do it.’”
Apfel—who was born in Queens, New York and began a textile company with her husband, Carl Apfel—rose to national prominence and she advised several restoration efforts at the White House, spanning from Eisenhower to Clinton. Her vibrant, personality-driven approach to fashion is a main focus of Iris; a perspective she notes is quickly losing momentum in favor of style dictated by seasonal fashion trends.
“I think it’s terrible,” said Apfel, who currently stars in spring fashion ad campaigns for Kate Spade, Saint Laurent, and Céline. “People are being robbed of their imaginations—and everything else—with this button-pushing culture we have.”
The 80-minute documentary—which also follows Apfel as she hawks her handbag line on the Home Shopping Network and sifts through accessories in Harlem—opens Wednesday and is one of the last directed by Maysles, who passed away in March at age 88.