Style Icon Iris Apfel Opens Up About Her Very First Job

Style Icon Iris Apfel Opens Up About Her Very First Job

You're as old as you feel': At 97, Iris Apfel is a fashion icon

Style Icon Iris Apfel Opens Up About Her Very First Job & Offers Words of Wisdom to the Next Generation

Even at 101, Iris Apfel has no plans on retiring. In fact, she finds the idea horrifying.

While the style icon has had many jobs throughout her life — from founding her textile firm Old World Weavers with her late husband Carl Apfel to working with the White House to oversee various restoration projects for nine presidencies — she still remembers her very first job quite fondly.

She was a “copy girl” at Fairchild Fashion Media, where she had to transport messages between editors up and down stairs all day long. For Apfel, it’s a full circle moment being back in the Fairchild offices decades later during her recent FN cover shoot.

“If you can believe it, in those days, I made the magnificent sum, now listen carefully, of $15 a week — a week!” she recalled. “I wanted to get into the business, and I always believed in starting at the bottom. I’m not one who longs for the red carpet and the corner office. I think you have to pay your dues.”

Here, Apfel, who has been a visiting professor for students from the University of Texas at Austin for the past decade, answers this year’s class’ burning questions.

KEENA MEDINA: What is the most romantic spot in New York City?
“There are nooks and crannies in Central Park that are really as romantic as you
can get.”

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ETHAN ORLANDO: What has been your best shopping deal?
“I got many wonderful deals in the old flea market in Paris many, many years ago. One of them was a church vestment that I translated into a beautiful

LIZ GARCIA: Who is your fashion inspiration?

“I’ve never had a real inspiration, but I admired greatly and was influenced by two wonderful ladies, one was Millicent Rogers, who was a Standard Oil heiress and had tremendous taste and style and all the money to go with it. And then Pauline de Rothschild.”

ANUSHKA COLACO: Which country has inspired you most?

“It’s apples and oranges, but if I had to pick one, I’d pick Italy. It has everything I like — the climate is wonderful, the people are divine, the food is yum yum.”

FORD TEW: What is your favorite childhood memory?

“I had a very pleasant childhood. I was an only child, so I was spoiled, of course. But I had a wonderful time and I had a lot of friends and toys and places to go. I went to art school since I was 5 years old.”

EMMA WEEDEN: What is your advice for twentysomethings about to start a career in fashion?

“They have to learn who they are and try to be as close to who they are as possible and not who everybody else is.”
ISABEL SITAR: What is one item of clothing you cannot live without?

“My black tights!”
VICTORIA STURM: What is your favorite piece of jewelry?

“That’s very hard to say. I have so many and it’s almost like saying who’s your favorite child.”
FAITH MCNABNAY: What are some tips on how to make my closet more unique?


“You have to gussy it all up. I would say by putting interesting pieces in it.”
KATIE MILLER: What is your favorite fashion decade?

“I don’t have a favorite decade because I don’t play favorites. There are good and bad things for me in every decade and I don’t follow trends, so it’s not very important.”
ALEXA KLEIN: What is a memory that sticks out most from working alongside your late husband?$m

“I was in the flea market with my husband and we came upon this dealer of antique and vintage clothing. I found this box of never-worn, wonderful church vestments. The fabric was splendid, I fell in love.

My husband was adamant, saying, ‘No. People will think I can’t afford to buy you clothes.’ We had a big row. … He finally condescended. We were working at the White House at the time. It was very cold as there was a gasoline shortage, so it came in handy.”

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