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You’d have to be kind of nuts to not be in love with Iris Apfel. The 93-year-old New York fashion and design legend — whose unique, outlandish wardrobe was the subject of a 2005 exhibition at The Met’s Costume Institute — radiates warmth, honesty and confidence that any girl hoping to become a woman should pay close attention to. She’s also completely uninhibited and does whatever the hell she wants. And seeing as how she’s built an empire for herself (she worked at Women’s Wear Daily, launched a major textiles firm, helped decorate the White House, was a face of MAC at age 90 and today has a line of accessories with HSN, just to name a few résumé points) we just had to ask her for some life advice when we visited with her at HSN’s fashion week lounge on Sept. 8.
“Oh, it’s very corny,” said Apfel, who will have been married for 67 years in February, when we asked her to list her secrets of happiness. “But you really do have to live every day as if it’s your last. And one day you’ll be right.”
In between showing off her latest collection of Chinese antiquity-inspired bracelets for HSN and dealing with an ornery town car service on her flip phone (“Will it be a car or is it another one of those torture chambers? I’d like a car so I don’t have to climb into a station wagon. I’m an old bag,” the style maven told the caller with a smirk), Apfel rattled off the following pieces of advice. If any of them lead to even a minuscule taste of the life she leads or the true impact she had on her adoring public, we’ll very happily take it.
1. Be curious.
“I think curiosity is something that young people have absolutely forgotten about. Young people think they can press a button for everything they need, every one of life’s problems. It’s appalling. I’ve been saying this for some years and everybody looked at me as if I was some old fuddy-duddy, and now everyone is telling me the same thing.”
2. Work really hard.
“You should not have a sense of entitlement. You have to earn things. And you should learn that.”
3. Don’t do things you don’t love.
“You have to have passion about what you do. All these things sound so corny, but they’re true.”
4. Use humor as the basis for your relationships.
“[Carl and I] have a sense of humor. Most people break up for the most stupid reasons. Basically — unless they’re neurotics or something — they marry one another because they have some basis for it. Something other than wanting to hop in and out of the sack. At least that’s the best way to do it. If you have a sense of humor, the only misunderstanding is over stupid things like ‘We were at a flea market and I wanted to buy something and he said no.’ You get very heated and then you look at each other and laugh because it’s so silly.”
5. Listen to your inner voice. It knows what’s up.
“I believe in trusting my gut. Everything I’ve done is that way. I’ve never had a business plan, I’ve just fallen into things. If they feel right, I go with it. If I find something that feels good I know it’s for me.”
6. Decide what you want the rules to be. Then go make them.
“Exceptions prove the rule. That’s why I don’t like rules.”
7. Don’t be shy.
Pret-a-Reporter: Can I take your picture?
Iris Apfel: Please.
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