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The “Geriatric Starlet”

iris_apfel_mac. . . . this would never be the title that I would give the eccentric fashion icon, Iris Apfel. She referred to herself this way because of her late-in-life fame. You don’t have to look too far to find more hysterical and insightful remarks by Iris. She speaks her mind and does so with much candor and a keen sense of humor.

I’m familiar with Iris like many of you, because of her glasses! She is always photographed in her colorful, oversized round glasses, endless bangles and necklaces; all which suit her perfectly! She gained a lot of attention nationally when many of her infamous outfits were on display in an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2005, “Rare Bird of Fashion.”

Or you might have become familiar with her prior to 2005. Iris had an extensive interior design business and founded Old World Weavers, a textile firm that she and her husband, Carl, launched in the 1950’s. Her interior design portfolio includes several White House restorations. She’s had a fascinating career.

However, as usual, I’m never satisfied with just the style and fashion blog articles, especially when the subject matter is a 93 yr. old starlet. I like to dig deeper. There is always more to the story . .

Iris is the only child in her family. She was born in 1923 in Astoria, Queens, NY. Her father owned a glass/mirror business and her Russian-born mother, Sadye, owned a fashion boutique. Her mother was a very fashionable woman; much more reserved in her style than Iris, but she seemingly instilled in her the value of great accessories!

But as I was digging deeper, I found a story that I had to share. I found an article about Iris in The Daily Beast. The article was written in April 2015, by Allison McNearney. In this interview Iris discusses a little bit about her childhood. When she was about 11 (1934), with a nickel in hand, she would skip school on Thursday afternoon and scout around the different neighborhoods in Manhattan. She admittedly was a very curious child. One of her favorite neighborhoods at that time was Greenwich Village. There, in a shop in Greenwich she spotted a pin with “filigree and rose-cut diamonds” that she “lusted after.” Iris takes time in this interview /article to describe the shopkeeper. I’m going to quote the article exactly, so that you don’t any miss it “ . . . . . she found a little shop in the basement of an old rat-trap building that was run by a little old man who was very elegant, very down on his luck. He had frayed cuffs, but he always wore spats and a boutonniere, and he had a monocle. He was very elegant.”

You can almost place yourself right there; picture 1930’s, Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway, swing dancing . . . jazz was just beginning to flourish. And although it’s easy for an antique lover like me to romanticize about this time period, the Great Depression, which was worldwide, was still in effect. At the very least it had left its mark everywhere. Iris doesn’t discuss the Depression in this article, but I’m sure she was very well aware of it. Money was hard to come by. The eleven-year-old Iris, however, kept returning to this shop, and eventually scrimped and saved enough money to purchase the pin for 65 cents. These are the sweet stories I love, and an example of what can be missed if you don’t have keepers of the past.

Iris has only become more famous as time goes on, but she still doesn’t wear anything that Carl (her husband of 67 years) doesn’t like on her. I think this says more about her than anything else.

Iris still owns that pin. I imagine each time she picks it up and holds it in her hands, the memories of her special purchase take her back in time . . . to the little shop in the basement of that “old rat-trap building” and the “elegant” shopkeeper.


photo-150x150.jpgKimberly Pearson has always had a passion for retail and merchandising.  From studying retail merchandising as a young woman to practicing a more restrained version as a professional organizer then to home interiors and Redesign in 2005, it’s just a part of her make up.
Today, that passion has taken her to a personal shopping service provided solely to the design trade.  As a lifelong Phoenix resident she has a heart for local; primarily local vintage shops.  Kimberly works closely with her clients to provide top-notch customer service in their search for special pieces all while promoting a more convenient method to support the local community.  Kimberly Pearson if the founder of Brick & Mortar Vintage and can be reached at (602) 460-6277.  brickandmortarvintage.com

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