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Fashion Icon Iris Apfel Dead at Age 102 

Iris Apfel’s 100th Birthday Party at Central Park Tower
Noam Galai/Getty Images for Central Park Towe

Fashion icon and model Iris Apfel has died.

Stu Loeser, a spokesman for Apfel’s estate, confirmed her death to the New York Times on Friday, March 1. She died at her home in Palm Beach, Florida. She was 102.

Her death was first announced via her Instagram page on Friday alongside a photo of the designer rocking a black and gold gown with her signature thick black-rimmed glasses. “Iris Barrel Apfel August 29, 1921 – March 1, 2024,” the caption read.

In honor of the fashionista, celebrities quickly took to the comments section to share their heartfelt condolences. “You mastered the art of living,” Lenny Kravitz wrote. “Thank you for your energy and inspiration. ❤✊🏾.”

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Ted Lasso star Hannah Waddingham also mourned the loss, writing, “Ohhhhhh. Goodnight and God bless Ma’am. What joy and endless style you brought to so many. ❤️❤️.” Tommy Dorfman added, “🕊️🕊️🕊️.”

Born in Queens, New York in 1921, Apfel first made a name for herself as a businesswoman and interior designer who launched her own textile company, Old World Weavers, alongside her husband, Carl Apfel. Together, the pair went on to work on nine White House restoration projects.

The couple took a backseat at the company in 1992, and by the early 2000s, Iris became more well-known for her signature style. In 2005, an exhibit featuring her best fashion finds was opened at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“This is no collection,” she quipped the NYT when the exhibit opened. “It’s a raid on my closet. I always thought to show at the Met you had to be dead.”

Iris also began to catch the eye of the younger demographic due to her authentic and bold aesthetic, which she often shared online, amassing a total of nearly 3 million Instagram followers over the years. In 2015, she was asked to help “beef up” the fashion program at the University of Texas.

Iris Apfel Handbag Collection Launch
Desiree Navarro/Getty Images

“I expose them to important jobs in licensing, styling, back-of-museum work, and on and on,” she told Vogue of her role, noting her plan to bring students to New York and show them an “intensive” week in the fashion capital.

“It has just been mind-boggling for them,” she added. “They just go bananas. And I’ve learned so much.”

At age 97, Iris signed with IMG and became the oldest model to be represented by a major agency.

“I’m very excited. I never had a proper agent,” she told Women’s Wear Daily in January 2019. IMG, who is home to superstars like Ashley Graham, Hailey Bieber and Gigi and Bella Hadid, gushed over Iris at the time, calling her an “accidental icon.”

“Iris is an icon with immeasurable talent,” said president of IMG Models, Ivan Bart, said in a statement. “She radiates creativity and inspiration and we’re so excited to explore new and unique opportunities with her, where her natural gifts can be shared with the world. At 97 years old, Iris continues to prove that age is just a number and shouldn’t be something that defines you.”

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Iris also crafted a myriad of collections in her final years, working with major brands such as H&M and Ciáte London. While speaking with Today in 2022, she shared her belief that age shouldn’t make a difference when it comes to one’s career path.

“Oh, I love to work. It’s fun because I enjoy it,” she shared. “And then I can help people. I can give employment. People tell me I inspire them. So many good things come out of it. I think retiring at any age is a fate worse than death. Just because a number comes up doesn’t mean you have to stop.”

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