The National Arts Club of NYC presents the Medal of Honor for Achievement in Fashion to Iris Apfel
May 11, 2018
Review by Anne Akers; Founder/Editor in Chief, GLOW Beauty Health Wellness Magazine
The scene was the National Arts Club, a bastion of arts and culture, located adjacent to the beautifully landscaped Gramercy Park. Founded in 1898 by the literary/art critic for the New York Times, this mansion once served as the residence of Presidential candidate Samuel J. Tilden. Although it is a members only Club, its mission is to stimulate interest in, and educate the American people about, the Fine Arts. In keeping with that philosophy, all arts programs are free and open to the public.
However, this night, May 11th, belonged to the Fashion Committee, the Board of Governors and invited guests only as the 94-year old fashion maverick, Iris Apfel, was to be given the Medal of Honor for Achievement in Fashion. Those gathered to pay homage to one of the most dynamic personalities in the world of fashion, spanned the generations from young fashionistas to the grand dames of Seventh Avenue.
Iris herself, who attracts fans of all ages , once said, “I never want to be an old fuddy-duddy; I hold the self-proclaimed record for being the World’s Oldest Living Teenager and I intend to keep it that way”. And indeed she looked every bit the part of a young ingenue, as she held court in a throne like chair of the mansion’s parlor, awash in joyously vivid colors of turquoise, orange, and red. Looking much like a fashion Picasso, arranging diverse elements and accessories into a completely original collage, Iris quipped, “People ask me all the time what to wear; but if I tell them, it’s my style, not theirs.”
And so as Iris continued to regale her guests, flashing a smile for the endless Iphone snapshots, one could hear the call to the Dining Area, signaling the end of the cocktail hour and the beginning of the evening’s program with Guest Speakers Hal Rubenstein, one of the Founding Editors of INSTYLE Magazine, American Fashion Designer Naeem Kahn, and Linda Zagaria, President of The National Arts Club. The presentation was preceded by a short film with glimpses of Iris’ life as a fashion influencer, brand ambassador, film star, and an unapologetically outspoken, whip smart, gem of a woman.
Hal Rubenstein spoke of her book, “Musings of a Geriatric Starlet” in which Iris, the accidental icon, opines on the unexpected events of her life, saying: I never expected people to recognize my face— never expected to be a fashion icon— never expected museums to exhibit my clothing and accessories (a blockbuster exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, making her the first living woman who was not a fashion designer to be honored)—- never expected to be a cover girl or the face of a cosmetic company in my 90’s—-never expected to have a Barbie doll made in my image—-never expected to have an Emmy award documentary made of my life —– in fact, “I NEVER EXPECT ANYTHING”. “I just feel things in my gut and I do “. Well, my friends, that just about says it all.
The evening ended with a presentation of the Medal of Honor, a handsome piece of jewelry that has been presented in past years to such luminaries as Norma Kamali, Betsey Johnson, Arnold Scassi, Oleg Cassini, Carolina Herrera, and Geoffrey Beene. In her acceptance remarks, Iris said” “People often ask me what is my favorite piece of jewelry? The answer now is simple: this is it”! (referring of course to the National Arts Medal).
It was a magical night……………………..a night that inspires us all to remember that “one size does NOT fit all”. And as only Iris can say: “You don’t find out who you are unless you work at it!”. Iris Apfel is indeed a “work of art”.