97-Year-Old Style Icon Iris Apfel Proves That Age Is Just A Number By Signing Modeling Contract

by Kim Wong-Shing
Kim Wong-Shing is a staff writer at LittleThings. Her work spans beauty, wellness, pop culture, identity, food, and other topics. She is a contributing writer at NaturallyCurly, and her work has also appeared in HelloGiggles, Lifehacker, Wear Your Voice Magazine, and other outlets. She grew up in Philadelphia, attended Brown University, and is now based in New Orleans.

Iris Apfel has never let her age hold her back. At 97 years old, she’s an international style icon, designer, and tastemaker.

Now, she’s also a model.

On Thursday, IMG Models announced that they’d signed Iris for worldwide representation for modeling, appearances, and endorsements.

“I’m very excited,” Iris told WWD. “I never had a proper agent.”

She could certainly use one. After decades of success in the fashion industry, Iris has scored a number of high-profile deals in recent years. She’s worked with HSN, Kate Spade, MAC, and Le Bon Marché, to name a few. In 2012, she became the oldest-ever cover model for Dazed & Confused.

Iris hopes that her journey will inspire other older women, too.

“I don’t think a number should make any difference and make you stop working,” she said. “I think retirement is a fate worse than death. I love to work and love my work… I meet interesting, creative people, my juices flow, and I really have a fine time.”

Iris Apfel has been a fixture in the fashion scene in New York for decades. At this point, she’s nothing short of an icon.

At 97 years old, Iris is living proof that age is no obstacle to being the most fashionable woman on the block. Known for her impeccable eye for accessories, she’s collaborated with many large brands in recent years, including Kate Spade, HSN, and MAC.

Now, Iris is taking her talents to the modeling business. She just signed with IMG Models for worldwide representation, WWD reports.

“I’m very excited,” Iris told WWD. “I never had a proper agent.”

Iris has always handled her deals herself, she explained.

“I’m a do-it-yourself girl. I never expected my life would take this turn, so I never prepared for it,” she continued.

Iris shot into the spotlight when a documentary about her life and work, Iris, was released in 2014.

“It all just happened so suddenly, and I thought at my tender age, I’m not going to set up offices and get involved with all kinds of things,” Iris said. “I thought it was a flash in the pan, and it’s not going to last. Somehow, people found me. People would just call. Tommy Hilfiger said that was no way to do it, and he put us together. I’m very excited and very grateful.”

Iris is undoubtedly an asset for IMG Models.

“Iris is an icon with immeasurable talent,” Ivan Bart, president of IMG Models and and IMG Fashion Properties, said.

“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.”

Iris’s fashion career started in 1950, when she started her own textile company with her late husband Carl. The couple’s company was a huge success. They even worked on nine restoration projects at the White House.

Over the years, she became well-known for her fascinating collection of clothes and accessories.

In 2005, the Metropolitan Museum of Art dedicated an entire exhibition to Iris’s personal style. It was called “Rara Avis (Rare Bird): The Irreverent Iris Apfel.”

So, what will her collaboration with IMG Models look like, exactly? She says she’s not going to attempt runway work.

“How can I compete on runway? That’s ridiculous. We’ll be doing hopefully collaborations, or maybe I’ll be a spokesperson. I leave it to them. They know better than I.”

“I’ve had all kinds of interesting commissions in my limited career,” she continued. “Everything from vodka and automobiles to beauty products, and I’ve also had a number of interesting collaborations with big stores like Bon Marché in Paris, the Landmark Mall in Hong Kong, Macy’s, and Bergdorf Goodman.”


Iris also has her own clothing, jewelry, and accessory line with HSN.

“I design it and then I go on the air and peddle it. It’s great fun, and I love it. I have a very interesting clientele that pleases me to no end, everything from young ladies to drag queens,” she explained.

Make no mistake – Iris isn’t letting the sudden increase in fame get to her head. She’s just the same old Iris that she’s always been: confident and unique and knowledgeable.

“My husband, until he passed on, we used to sit there and laugh and laugh, and I’d say I’m no different than I was 70 years ago, and all of a sudden, I’m cool, I’m a hot property. It’s ridiculous. People tell me it’s because I’m real… and say what I think.”

“Who would think I would be a 97-year-old cover girl?” she said.

She’ll be an amazing one, no doubt.