The latest film from legendary documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles, is aptly named just IRIS, as in THE Iris Apfel, the loveable flamboyant 93 year old style maven who everyone previously adored and devoured in the Advanced Style series on youtube.com.
MSC Volunteer and blogger Colleen Tsoukalas reminded me (every time Miss Snickers and I dropped by My Sisters Closet to check out the daily $5 rack) about opening night of IRIS on May 29th. There was also to be a pop-up shopping experience which showcased MSC’s best Iris inspired outfits / jewellery and was a collaboration with VIFF. Kind of a big deal and definitely worth getting word out about!
When I arrived the big SOLD OUT sign was hanging over the ticket box but BWSS/MSC manager Samantha Kearney had an extra ticket which she generously gave to me after hearing my sad story of being all dressed up with no where to go. Thank you!
After some browsing and Sugarbakers‘s Iris signature eyeglasses inspired cookie munching, Britta Bisig of Vancouver Vogue Fashion Blog sashayed in and immediately we were all over the fashion displays. So many stylish and uber-accessorized ladies were in attendance and Sue Randhawa of The Optical Boutique showed us all up with her signature style, and then it was time to settle into the big comfortable theatre seats and then it was time to enjoy the show!
More than a fashion film, the documentary is a story about creativity and how a soaring free spirit continues to inspire. IRIS portrays a singular woman whose enthusiasm for fashion, art and people are life’s sustenance and reminds us that dressing, and indeed life, is nothing but an experiment. Despite the abundance of glamour in her current life, she continues to embrace the values and work ethic established during a middle-class Queens upbringing during the Great Depression.
“I feel lucky to be working. If you’re lucky enough to do something you love, everything else follows.”
Magnolia Pictures published this bio of Iris:
Iris Barrell Apfel was born August 29, 1921 in Astoria, Queens, to Sadye Barrell, a lawyer and fashion boutique owner, and importer Samuel Barrell. From the time she was a child, individual style in all of its iterations was Iris’s passion. She followed her father to jobs at Elsie de Wolfe’s legendary interior design studio and helped her mother style store windows.
After studying fine arts at New York University, Iris landed her first full-time job at Women’s Wear Daily, eventually going on to apprentice with interior designer Elinor Johnson, and then beginning her own interior design business. In 1948, she married Carl Patel, an advertising executive, and together they founded Old World Weavers, manufacturing fabrics Iris imagined but could not find for her many design projects. From 1948 until 1992, Carl and Iris helped restore the fabrics of most major museum collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as the White House. As they traveled the world, Iris became a dogged collector of textiles she transformed into clothing and artifacts she turned into jewelry. Iris was increasingly admired for her fearless and original style — while other women were dressing in head-to-toe designers, Iris combined haute couture tops with pants fashioned from church vestments and tribal jewelry. She mixed designer pieces with flea market finds, transforming dressing to improvised artistic expression.
In 2005, the Metropolitan Museum approached Iris about sharing her collections.
The show, “Iris Patel, Rare Bird of Fashion,” showcasing Iris’s irreverent style, became a runaway hit and travelled the country making Iris, at age of 87, a self-described “geriatric starlet.” Iris’s broad appeal landed her on the pages of publications as diverse as European editions of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar as well as PAPER and Dazed and Confused. Along the way, becoming a favorite model of Bruce Weber. She appeared in a Coach Ads, designed a sell-outline for MAC Cosmetics and now sells clothing and accessories on HSN. She is a visiting professor of School of Human Ecology at The University of Texas, where selected students join her annually for a week-long tour of the fashion industry that involves every aspect of the business.
(Article and event images by Helen Siwak. Images from IRIS the movie, courtesy Magnolia Pictures).