Iris – Film Review


Went to see a documentary about Iris Apfel, the flamboyant 93-year-old style icon and fashion collector from New York with an outrageously individual dress sense.

I’ve seen Apfel’s glorious over-the-top outfits in various publications, yet what comes through the most in this warmly made film is the personality of this singular woman: down-to-earth, blunt, sharp and quick-witted. The camera follows her around the various stores where she rummages for treasures, at fashion shows and museum exhibitions, and at home which she shares with her 100-year-old husband Carl – in a way the film is a very sweet love story.

It also looks back at her career as an interior decorator (her clients included the White House, among others), and captures some of the process by which she assembles her creations: it is, Iris explains, all gut and instinct, putting things together which look like they’ve been created as one thing, rather than something that looks put together. She loves colour; black, she says dismissively, is not a style, it’s a uniform. Take that, black-loving Melbourne! I love black myself, but sometimes it’s outright depressing to walk into a store and see nothing but black, grey and navy.

Iris’ love of fashion and beautiful things and the sheer joy she takes in them was really inspiring to watch. She doesn’t sugarcoat over the tough aspects of the old age, the physical frailty and the periods of exhaustion that follow an activity, yet she’s determined to be in the world and do as much as she’s able to. If I make it into my 90s I can only hope to have the same spirit and love of life.