No nervous nineties by Richard Jones

A look at Iris (M)…

IrisI CAN’T think of anyone in their nineties who commands such immediate attention as New York fashion guru Iris Apfel.

She’s 93, wears huge spectacles which make her look a tad cartoon-ish and  dresses ultra flamboyantly with enormous necklaces, bangles and multi-coloured tops. 

And yet during her working life with interior designer husband Carl, Iris worked on White House re-decoration projects for no fewer than eight US presidents.

Carl reminds Iris during the course of the documentary that their first White House project was in the late Forties when Harry Truman was the president.

Yet working deep inside the US’s most famous building features as only one of Iris’ host of other achievements involving fashion shows and design exhibitions.

You’d think that just a few years shy of a century, Iris would be slowing down. But not a bit of it.

She has retained her work ethic and her never-ending mania for collecting. Her Manhattan and Florida homes are choc-a-block from floorboards to rafters with her collections of jewellery, clothes, fabrics, artwork and other assorted bric-a-brac – even a host of toys.

We accompany Iris and documentary-maker Albert Maysles (who sadly died in March this year aged a mere 88) across the East River to Brooklyn where she maintains an enormous warehouse also packed with items from her collection.

Amazingly she starts the cull while Maysles’ camera is on-site. “This can go and this,” she says, waving a bejewelled finger imperiously.

The pieces are donated by Iris and Carl to various New York City galleries.

And during an aside to camera, Iris notes quite trenchantly that “all the great hand-crafted trades are going down the tube.” Presumably that’s why she’s kept so many examples.

She’s also not particularly flattering about 21st century fashion designers.

“Most of them don’t even know how to sew and don’t have any sense of history,” she says, dismissively.

We see Iris, her family and friends heartily celebrating Carl’s 100th birthday. Quite an achievement. Sadly, he passed away not long after this documentary was released. He was 101.

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