The fashion world is gathered in Paris in search of direction and the new. But you needn’t fly to Europe to discover a marvelous, rare look at genuine style. “Rara Avis: Selections from the Iris Barrel Apfel Collection” is the new exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute.Â
The show is a sampling of Mrs. Apfel’s wardrobe over a 50-year period. Mrs. Apfel, left, arranged each mannequin with her personal accessories.
Mrs. Apfel and her husband, Carl, center right, founded the interior decoratingÂ textileÂ house Old World Weavers in the mid-1950′s. Their travels in search of historic fabrics led to her collection of fashion.
The exhibition spotlights the total look of one woman of style rather than the usual display of designer clothes separated from the wearers’ accessory embellishments. Here you have the whole dazzling image, including her signature eyeglasses and her cuff bracelets, always warn in pairs. The galleries were designed by Harold Koda and StÃ©phane Houy-Towner to capture the joyfulness of the Apfel style.
Iris Barrel Apfelâ€™s eclectic embellishments.
By Diana Mehl
House of Lanvin gown, circa 1985, gold, brown and gray silk taffeta. Bhutan arm bracelet, late 19th century, silver and amber. Tibet cuff bracelet, late 19th century, silver, amber, coral and turquoise. Tibet necklaces, early 20th century, silver, amber, coral andÂ Barrel
September 13, 2005 â€“ January 22, 2006
Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute
www.metmuseum.orgÂ Iris Apfel is a woman who has always been ahead of her time. More than 50 years ago as an interior designer looking for fine traditional silk-woven fabrics, she recognized an opportunity and, along with her husband, Carl, founded Old World Weavers. She built it into one ofÂ theÂ most prestigious brands in the world of textiles and interior design and the authority on antique textile reproductions. Thirteen years ago it was sold to Stark Carpets Co., and the Apfels have remained as consultants. The exquisite workmanship and exclusive fabric designs drew the attention of the most discriminating clients â€“ including Greta Garbo, Marjorie Merriweather Post and EstÃ©e Lauder. Old World Weavers was also awarded many important restoration projects, which included work at the White House, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Flagler Museum in West Palm Beach.
Apfel has been an influential pioneer in the world of fashion as well, boldly linking high- and low-end and melding flea market finds with haute couture long before doing so was considered fashionable. Her richly layered combinations of colors, textures and patterns show her remarkable panache.
Apfelâ€™s highly original personal style will be celebrated this September in an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museumâ€™s Costume Institute â€“Rara Avis: Selections From the Iris Barrel Apfel CollectionÂ â€“ in what will be a new focus for the Institute: the collection and exhibition of accessories.
In an interview withÂ Panache, Apfel reminisces about her most fabulous finds.
You really are an original. How would you describe your remarkable personal style?
I think dressing up or down should be a creative experience. Exciting. Fun. Whenever possible, itâ€™s really great to start with a marvelously cut designer piece and build on it.
For me the key to personal style lies in accessories. My friends tell me that my oversized glasses and my pairs of bracelets have become my unwritten signature. I have amassed an enormous â€œcollectionâ€ of bags, belts, bangles and beads without which I would be lost. One can change the entire look of an outfit by substituting one accessory for another. I love objects from different worlds, different eras, combined my way. Never uptight, achieving â€“ hopefully â€“ a kind of throwaway chic.
Which outfits have you put together that truly reflect your style?
A cowhide apron worn with a black satin jumpsuit. Antique Georgian jewelry mixed with flea market bangles and beads. A haute couture Jean-Louis Scherrer black-feather coat â€“ the tips painted in gold â€“ worn over Roberto Cavalli leopard-print jeans, and leopard-fur loafers. The outfit topped off with some ethnic jewelry. A canvas dance skirt from a Southwest pueblo edged in tinkling tin bells worn with different couture jackets. A silver-fox coat belted with a beaded African wall hanging, and red woolen boots with embroidered trim from Etro. A Chiâ€™ng dynasty exquisitely hand-embroidered silk wedding skirt with an English cashmere sweater and Italian handmade glove-leather boots.
When did you start to collect and how did you build your collection?
I donâ€™t collect per se. My so-called â€œcollectionâ€ is my wardrobe. Itâ€™s a series of pieces Iâ€™ve accumulated over these many years. I love a timeless look, and I think if you develop your own style itâ€™s not a problem â€“ at least it hasnâ€™t been for me. I can mix something I bought last week with something Iâ€™ve hoarded for 30 years. I donâ€™t follow trends or the hottest fashion. I buy what I like and my tastes are quite catholic â€“ haute couture to street fashion. Pieces that are Zen-simple or madly baroque. I love ethnic as well as contemporary. Iâ€™m fond of serious and adore amusing. I try to make all these things work together. Iâ€™ve never bothered to analyze how this happens, but Harold Koda [the curator of the Metropolitan Museumâ€™s Costume Institute] says there is an underlying aesthetic to all this madness. At this point â€“ with all the curatorial poking about â€“ I feel that my life is an open armoire! I do have a lot of stuff. After all, Iâ€™ve been shopping for myself since I was 12. Iâ€™ve been approximately the same size since high school. While my waistline hasnâ€™t expanded, my closet has! Iâ€™m constantly donating to charities and thrift shops. But one doesnâ€™t give away the very special pieces or the haute couture unless it all would be going to the Costume Institute of the Met!
What is going to be included in the show?
The curators are still making changes so Iâ€™m not absolutely sure. A few things I hope are cast in stone.
Years ago the ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) did an annual fashion show/luncheon where the leading designers of the day were asked to create an outfit of their choice from a given upholstery house. After a few years, the great James Galanos agreed only if he could use Old World Weavers. He created a spectacular evening outfit that is still very current. It is a floor-length coachmanâ€™s coat of a spolinato (handwoven linen background designed with huge woolen flowers that look as though they were embroidered). It is collared and cuffed and half-belted with Russian sable and completely lined with a heavy Chinese lacquer-colored Doupioni silk and is worn over a long â€œdeceptively simpleâ€ very sleek dress. It was the centerpiece of his retrospective show at FIT and, hopefully, will now be shown again.
There will be a madly multicolored feather jacket by Nina Ricci combined with Moschino brilliant-red-suede pants that are slashed ribbonlike from the knees down. Then, a three-tiered taffeta ball gown from Lanvin worn with heavy amber Tibetan necklaces and heavier â€œkillerâ€ bracelets. A Tunisian wedding dress. A fabulous coat by FerrÃ© for Dior made of black-and-white Tibetan lamb impregnated with feathers. And Galliano for Dior trousers with wolfskin from the knees down that makes me look as though Iâ€™m wearing high fur boots.
You design your own clothes as well?
In the early â€˜50s my husband, Carl, and I began a business called Old World Weavers. We specialized in weaving exact reproductions of antique-period fabric. This all started with some samples in a suitcase and, happily, we just grew. Our clients were the rich and famous and we did tons of historic restoration projects â€“ major work in the White House during the combined reigns of eight presidents. Because of business, we spent almost three months every yearÂ travelingÂ the world to find offbeat classic-period textile designs and to locate specific mills with specialized techniques to properly replicate them. They were exciting and challenging years.
Iâ€™ve always been extremely grateful to have traveled during that period and to have experienced the last of the Old World. One was still able to find highly skilled artisans to carry out any crackpot idea that dropped into oneâ€™s head. And surely they did â€“ and often!
I guess Iâ€™ve been a â€œcloset designerâ€ who could never sew or cut. But I had some ideas and I could sketch. God knows I had the fabric and the trimmings. It isnâ€™t easy to design an outfit, and trying my hand at it gave me an everlasting respect for the artistry and craftsmanship of the true couturier.
Nevertheless I had my fling with dressmakers, bagmakers and shoemakers. Whenever someone would admire the fabric on a finished piece and ask where it came from, my husband would say, â€œThank you â€“ I just shot my couch!â€
Who are some of your favorite designers?
Ralph Rucci, a wonderful, special friend of mine who is dressing me for the showâ€™s opening party. When he suggested doing it, I felt like Iâ€™d died and gone to heaven! I also favor Gianfranco FerrÃ©, Geoffrey Beene, Galanos and Norell. I guess theyâ€™re all part of one beautifully cut tradition. I love clothes that look deceptively simple. They are really very complicated and very architectural. Actually FerrÃ© studied to be an architect. All these guys really know what they are doing. They know how to sketch, cut and sew. Rucciâ€™s clothes and Galanosâ€™s clothes are sometimes more beautiful inside than outside. They are both detail-driven. I love amusing clothes as well. I find that Moschino, Gaultier, Dolce & Gabbana and Krizia have great style and humor.
Color is very important to you.
Yes, but I also love gray â€“ from pearl to charcoal. Years back I was particularly fond of a Tibetan gray-lamb hat and coat. I especially liked it because I had gray hair at the time and you couldnâ€™t see where I ended and the coat began!
|Do you have any favorite colors?
In the right tonalities I never met a color I didnâ€™t like. I love turquoise and reds. Iâ€™m not too keen on pastels. They make me look wimpy. I like black and white together a lot â€“ itâ€™s very crisp.
You also have a fabulous jewelry collection.
Thank you. I donâ€™t know how fabulous, but it is large and insane. Mostly faux with a few real pieces. Eighteenth-century antique to plastic trash. Most of the pieces I found years ago â€¦ in Greenwich Village way back in the â€˜30s, and, later, in the London street markets, the Sablon in Brussels and the Puce and shops in Paris. In the bazaars and souks in Istanbul, Cairo, Tunis and Marrakesh. During the â€˜50s I was in Paris quite often on business and took a fancy to haute couture faux jewelry. I eventually met the great Parisian creators Gripoix and Roger Jean-Pierre who made all the faux jewels for Chanel, St. Laurent, Balenciaga, Givenchy, et cetera. I was invited to their ateliers and we became friends. Often Iâ€™d stumble upon an antique piece and ask if it could be copied for me in paste. Iâ€™d supply a picture or a sketch and voila! I have some very interesting pieces that are one-of-a-kind. Or Iâ€™d buy the jewelry they designed. At first people thought I was mad to spend the money I did on what they considered junk. But I thought the pieces were very artistic and beautifully made. Now they are highly prized. Iâ€™m not too fond of real jewelry. I know itâ€™s very beautiful and very valuable but I never had a yen for it. (What a lucky man my husband is!) My stuff is much more dramatic and much more fun.
What are some of your favorite pieces of jewelry?
My turquoise beads from the Southwestern pueblos. A 19th-century Venetian Blackamoor made by the Venetian firm of Codognato. Carl bought it for me when we sold Old World Weavers to Stark Carpets 13 years ago. A Navajo silver-and-turquoise, very large bolo in the form of a Yei figure (Navajo deity). Any of my heavy silver cuffs â€“ Native American, Indian, Afghani, Russian. I favor pairs of bracelets. A necklace that is in reality a set of Bakelite color chips. A Near Eastern slingshot that poses as a necklace. I especially love ethnic jewelry of all kinds. It has a kind of integrity. Itâ€™s so organic and it speaks to me, and it is often oversized. Iâ€™m crazy about coral, amber and silver as well as turquoise. Many cultures totally unrelated to one another use the stones in different ways. I love to pile on jewelry piece upon piece as the old Native American chiefs did, like the Tibetan ladies do when they go out. If you havenâ€™t noticed, I like BIG. Discrete jewelry is not for me.
What other types of collections do you have?
Museum-quality Châ€™ing dynasty costume and textiles. Native American arts and crafts, including Kachina dolls. A large collection of French 19th-century opaline. Antique textiles. A small collection of dog paintings, etc.
What do you look for?
Iâ€™m a hopeless romantic. I buy things because I fall in love with them. I never buy anything just because itâ€™s valuable. My husband used to say I look at a piece of fabric and listen to the threads. It tells me a story. It sings me a song. I have to get a physical reaction when I buy something. AÂ coup de foudreÂ â€“ a bolt of lightning. Itâ€™s fun to get knocked out that way!
What is your shopping philosophy?
I do have a dominant shopping gene but, unlike a reasonable person, I never plan for what I need each season. I enjoy the thrill of the hunt, the discovery and the endless search. In another creation I was, perhaps, a hunter/gatherer. After all these years, Iâ€™ve learned that itâ€™s not the end result or finished product but the process I most enjoy. If my experimenting, searching and juxtaposing turns into an exciting outfit well, itâ€™s just a big fat bonus!
What are you buying now?
Jeans. What else would you suggest for the worldâ€™s oldest living teenager?
On Wednesday, January 18th, I had the privilege of interviewing Iris Barrel Apfel in her New York apartment, as part of our ongoing ‘Masters of Fashion’ Video Interview Series which includes discussions with some of the most influential names in American fashion. Past interviews in the series were with Elsa Klensch, Ralph Rucci, Grace MIrabella, Geoffrey Beene, Rose Marie Bravo, Arthur Elgort, Ruth Finley, and Bill Cunningham. This interview is made possible by our sponsor, Fashion GPS.Â
Intro:Â I am Marilyn Kirschner the Editor-in-Chief of LookOnline.com. Today our very special guest is Iris Barrel Apfel, a fashion iconoclast and true original whose colorful individualistic and exuberant style was celebrated by the Metropolitan Museum of Artâ€™s Costume Institute, in an exhibit, â€˜Rara Avisâ€™ which ran from September 13th through January 22nd. Itâ€™s groundbreaking, has became a must see, and is being talked about by everybody in the industry.
Marilyn Kirschner:Â Fashion Week is only days away. How do you feel about being an 84-year-old fashion icon that is being touted by many of the worldâ€™s most influential designers as one of the most important influences for their upcoming fall 2006 collections?
Iris Apfel:Â â€œItâ€™s hard for me to comprehend and to believeâ€¦itâ€™s like some sort of a fantasyâ€¦itâ€™s great, I meanâ€¦. I have been doing the same thing since practically childhood, I started to do my own shopping when I was 12, so after 70 years, itâ€™s kind of a kick in the head. It could have never happened, soâ€¦better late than never.
M.K:Â What were the influences early on that made you love fashion so? Was it a fashionable mother ?
I.A:Â Yes, I had a very chic mother, she loved clothes and she subsequently went into the fashion business and opened a small chain of boutiques and left me to my own devices more or less. Of course, Grandma was there and we always had people to take care of me butâ€¦ Since I am 12 years old, if I wanted any clothes I had to go and find them myself because she didnâ€™t have any time. So it was wonderful training, it was difficult, Iâ€™ll never forget my first experience, and itâ€™s made me a very, very good shopper. I think all young women should be exposed and not just given unlimited charge accounts and told, â€œThis is how much you can spend, go out and buy an outfitâ€. Today, with places like H&M and all the discount stores, thereâ€™s really no reason not to be well dressed.
M.K.:Â Thatâ€™s true. Were you always mixing high end with low end?
M.K.:Â Was it one of your signatures?
M.K.:Â And did people think that you were perhaps a little off your rocker because of your imaginative put- togethers?
I.A.:Â They must have but it never really bothered me one way or another, butâ€¦obviously, they must have.
M.K.:Â And did you always like having people look at you because you stood out in the crowd?
I.A.: No, I never really think about it, I â€˜m not like that, I have so many other things to do, Iâ€™m not a fashionista, and that is not my life. I love beautiful clothes, and I appreciate them, butâ€¦Iâ€™ve been in business all my life, I built a business, Iâ€™m involved in a lot of charities and all kinds of stuffâ€¦andâ€¦.you know, just being a clotheshorse is not my idea of heaven.
M.K.:Â So you started as an Interior Decorator?
I.A:Â I was a Vogue Prix de Paris Girl, if anybody remembers back that farâ€¦and I really wanted to go into editorial fashion. So my very first job was a copygirl for Womenâ€™s Wear Daily when they were down on 13th street. And I lasted there a couple of months. It kept me in shape, and thatâ€™s about all because I was running up and down the stairs, but I realized quickly enough, being very bright, that Iâ€™d never get any place because all of the editors, at that point, were middle agedâ€¦they were too young to die and too old to get pregnant, so Iâ€™d never get a shot. So eventually I leftâ€¦and through a series of strange events I ended up in the Interior Design business.
M.K.:Â About 50 years ago, you and your husband Carl, founded one of the most well respected companies on the planet in terms of textiles and materialsâ€¦.Old World Weavers.
I.A.:Â Yes, yesâ€¦we had a small company that we startedâ€¦actually we began it out of a suitcase because we didnâ€™t know if that would work and we didnâ€™t have any funds. I designed these things and Carl would go around during his lunch hour with a suitcase which he put on wheelsâ€¦if we had packaged that we wouldnâ€™t have had to do anything else. Andâ€¦it went well, we got some very nice orders, and we subsequently decided that we would go into business ourselves. It was very colorful and very fun because our first big order came with one of the icons in the industry, Dorothy Draper. She was a very large woman, and she had a very large trestle table in her studio, and it took Carl months to get an interview with her, and I have to go back to tell you that the bag, the suitcase, was getting very heavy, because he had so many samples and silk (our silks were just incredible, they were 18,000 ends to lift – they could just pull a truck), and he had loads and loads of heavy antique Dupioni taffeta, and I said â€œRather than carry them all, itâ€™s getting too cumbersome, let me go to the mill and make youâ€¦what we used to call a long â€œblanketâ€.
So I arranged to do about 14 inches of each color and I would grade them and in a grand gesture he threw it across Madameâ€™s table and she said â€œThis is just what Iâ€™ve looked for all my life young man, this is the first intelligently scaled stripe Iâ€™ve ever seen.â€ and she said â€œIâ€™m doing a job for a colonel who has this marvelous house in the Bahamas and he has 18 foot ceilings and I need horizontal stripes and I canâ€™t find so can you make me 300 yards? The following day we had a visit from a Sara Fredericks, who was a retailing icon. She was doing her house and had mentioned that she needed fabric, and a mutual friend who was an antiques dealer said â€œyou have to go and see these two young people who are just starting outâ€â€¦she came to the apartment and fell in love with something and ordered 250 yardsâ€¦so we said â€œok weâ€™re going into businessâ€ and thatâ€™s how it happened.
We took a 3 story walk up on 57th street, which I thought would be more chic than any place since we were in the middle of all the antiques dealers, and you had to walk up three double flights of stairsâ€¦ but all of the so-called â€˜Wâ€™ ladies came, they all found out about it, Mrs. Marjorie Meriwether Post among them and she became a very good client. I have a very funny story about her. She bought a silk called â€œHillwoodâ€ for her house in Washington, itâ€™s just beautiful, in the estate section where all the embassies are, and we finished the order. Early one morning, the telephone rang and I answered, and she said â€œThis is Mrs. Post and I must speak with Mr. Apfel immediately!â€ And I thought Oh my God what happened? So Carl got on the phone and she said, â€œMr. Apfel, last night my drapes were delivered, they are absolutely stunning. They are hung in my sitting room and I am on top of an 18 ft ladder, examining them. You have also made me exquisite silk fringe, but I must know, how many little balls are there supposed to be in a running yard?â€ and my husband thought for a minute and he said, â€œMrs Post, every day I eat your Raisin Bran , can you tell me please how many raisins I am supposed to find in a tablespoon?â€ And she said, â€œTouchÃ©! Mr. Apfel. My God, I am a foolish woman and I better get down from that ladder before I break my neck. Excuse me I love it and thatâ€™s the way it should beâ€.
Everybody came (including Estee Lauder) and everything we did then was custom made, which of course became too cumbersome to make. We subsequently decided to go to Europe to buy and design and look for antique fabrics which had always been or were the basis of our collection, they were not knock-offs orâ€¦whatâ€™s the wordâ€¦. suggestions, but were actual replicas, and we would go all over trying to find the proper mill to so that it was just like it was in the 17th or 18th century.
M.K.:Â Precise and perfect. Do you think the relationship between fashion and home dÃ©cor is underrated or do you think itâ€™s always been proven through the years and centuries?
I.A.:Â Oh through the years itâ€™s been proven, because the beautiful French dresses are of the same fabric as the ladies sat on. I mean they go hand in hand, itâ€™s part of a lifestyle.
M.K.:Â And in the cover story â€œWhat Iris Wore, A Style Originalâ€, by Ruth La Ferla, which ran in the Thursday Style section of The New York Times on November 17th, 2005, it was mentioned that Ralph Lauren is apparently going to be using a lot of upholstery fabrics for fall 2006 as an inspiration from your exhibit.
I.A.:Â Oh that would be very nice. I would hope so. We have sold upholstery fabrics over the years. Oscar de La Renta has bought a lot of our things, Geoffrey Beene has bought some, Bill Blassâ€¦. Ralph Rucci. As a matter of fact, the boots, the high over the knee boots in the exhibition, if anyone has seen it, are of an upholstery fabric that Ralph designed and Mr. Blahnik made. And I just had to have them.
M.K.:Â One of the things I love is the Traveling Ensemble (a matching three piece outfit fabric comprised of a coat, a pair of boots, and an oversized satchel) made from a heavy upholstery-like animal pattern.
I.A.:Â It is in a fabric that I designed, that was made in the early sixties.
M.K.:Â All I could think of when I saw this is how nowadays, when you travel and see how most people look at airports, they are such slobs. I couldnâ€™t get this image out of my mind and I was hysterical. I also thought that it was so amazing, was that it showed a lot about how exacting and precise your aesthetic is, in both home decor, and fashion sense. Itâ€™s all very, very consistent.
I.A.:Â I donâ€™t dress like that when I travel now. I do think you have to look like the crowd so I always travel now in jeans.
M.K.:Â Things are a lot different now. By the way, speaking of jeans, I read somewhere that you refer to yourself as the â€œworldâ€™s oldest living teenagerâ€ and that you are constantly looking for jeans right now. Are there any particular brands that you like?
I.A.:Â Well I like menâ€™s jeans, they fit me very well.
M.K.:Â What makes?
I.A.:Â Well any kind, I have a lot of Leviâ€™sâ€¦I used to buy a lot of jeans in Target or places like thatâ€¦I canâ€™t remember the names. I also have beautiful designer jeans.
M.K.:Â Some were in the exhibit.
I.A.:Â Very few. They were going to do a big section on jeans but we had so much to choose from. They decided that we should go for fantasy. Harold said people donâ€™t want to come to the Museum and look at jeans or little gray flannel suits, even though those are what I wear most of the time because I like to accessorize them and theyâ€™re easy and practical for working which is what I do. I had nothing to do with the curatorial process. And actually, they came looking for accessories, the exhibit was conceived as a small accessory production. It was going to be a vitrine Showâ€¦.
|M.K.:Â When did they first approach you with the idea of doing a show?|
I.A.:Â It was just about a year before the show. The Met decided that they wanted to put an emphasis now in collecting accessories. Because accessories are very important and they donâ€™t have as splendid a collection as they do of clothing which is second to noneâ€¦
M.K.: I seeâ€¦
I.A.:Â They also felt that it was the appropriate time because very few people are buying couture anymore and designer clothing is really beyond many, many peopleâ€¦but almost everybody, with a little scrimping and saving can have an accessory designer piece, so it could be a bag or a scarf, or a pair of eyeglasses, but there you are. So we were going to show accessories and they were hoping that would influence the process of their collecting. And they came to the house and had the idea that actually it would be better if I would be willing to accessorize a few mannequins so people could see how things could be put together. And I said no problem. And then they began to peek in the closets. Because, I emphasize, I do not have a clothing collection. I never bought to collect, I bought to wear.
Everything I have in the show has been worn many, many times and I hope I will be able to wear them again. And I know people who have collections tend to keep them on a pedestal. I have a friend who has a brilliant collection of over 15,000 pieces and she gave me a look at it and she was pulling this divine Geoffrey Beene dress, and I said â€œOh God, you must have had fun wearing that!â€ and she was horrified! She said â€œWear it? I never wear anything in my collection, you donâ€™t do thatâ€. I said â€œWell you donâ€™t but I do so I guess I donâ€™t have a collectionâ€. Anyway they kept looking and pulling things outâ€¦ we had no place to put it, I had to push all the furniture aside in this place, I bought ten pipe racksâ€¦.
M.K.:Â How many curators were here?
I.A.:Â Twoâ€¦Harold Korda and Stephane Houy-Towner were the ones that worked with me. And we refined, and we refined and they picked what they liked, and carted it off to the Met and again it was twice as much as we have now. From 10 mannequins it went to 82â€¦.and I had the privilege of accessorizing each one. They said â€œWe pick them but you have absolute carte blancheâ€¦ â€œ
M.K.:Â Did you do accessorize each outfit as you had worn it at one point?
M.K.:Â Did you sometimes improvise and make things up as you went along thinking â€œOh I would have worn it that way?â€
I.A.:Â It was a combination because sometimes, I have an accessory that I didnâ€™t have fifty years ago and there could be an improvementâ€¦and some of the shoes have worn out and some of the beads have fallen apartâ€¦.
M.K.:Â So you had to revisit your closet again.
I.A.:Â Yes and we had a lot of fun because I am a very disorganized abnormal buyer. I donâ€™t go out when I need something, I havenâ€™t got much time to shop so every once in a while when I get the call, I go dashing and then anything that I see and like, whether I need it or not, I buy. Most of the time it doesnâ€™t go with anything else, and I hang it in the closet until it does. As a matter of fact, Harold was hysterical because in between all these pieces we foundâ€¦.oh may be a half dozen pieces that I had boughtâ€¦oh 20, 30 years agoâ€¦.with the tag still onâ€¦and which I had never worn, so may be some day I will find a way to wear themâ€¦
M.K.:Â And the idea of making the mannequins look like you? Whose idea was that? That was brilliant to put the glasses onâ€¦brilliantâ€¦.
I.A.:Â I believe it was Harold and Stephaneâ€¦it was a joint collaboration.
M.K.:Â Itâ€™s too bad it opened right in the middle of last Fashion Week because I didnâ€™t get to see it until much laterâ€¦ and Iâ€™m not the only one. By the way, how many times have you walked around the exhibit yourself?
I.A.:Â Well, I do go back because people ask me to â€œplease meet themâ€ and take them aboutâ€¦. Stephane is wonderful and gives a great tour and he gives a much better tour than I doâ€¦I am very excited because this coming Friday, Joyce Jameson, an idol of mine who has called many times to see when she could come is meeting us at the museum and weâ€™re going to take her around.
M.K.:Â What are the most surprising bi products of this exhibit? Offers, invitations, requests that have come your way because of the publicity and accolades the exhibit has received?
I.A.:Â The most surprising thing is that I have become this geriatric starlet. That knocks me outâ€¦.
M.K.:Â As Iâ€™ve said, â€œmove over Kate Moss, there is a new fashion icon in town and sheâ€™s about 50 years your senior.â€
I.A.:Â At least I am not on drugs, and I donâ€™t need to go through rehab.
M.K.:Â You mentioned that you have had a few job offers?
I.A.:Â Oh yes, all kinds of things have come my way, somebody asked me to star in a video for her, an Indian singer who is very goodâ€¦she asked me to do thatâ€¦yesterdayâ€¦Lindsay Lohan was at the show (she is quite a fashionista) and she went crazy and she wants to meet me and she asked Stephane if I would be her stylistâ€¦.
I.A.:Â Ralph Lauren came with some of his designers and he was so admiring and so sweetâ€¦and I am sure it was a joke but after walking through the first gallery he looked at me and he said â€œHey would you like a job?â€ which was funnyâ€¦. I have been asked to write a piece in Vogue, I have been asked to do an article for Destination, I have been asked by several people to do a book, and Iâ€™ve been on television umpteen times and on international television which I find very amusing. Weâ€™ve done all of the Caribbean and South Americaâ€¦., Germany, Austria and Switzerland â€¦the Russians want me to do something, as do the Italians, but the communication department tells me they are so disorganized they canâ€™t get it together.
I’ve been interviewed by the Style Network and by Dana Tyler on CBS, oh my God all these things have opened up. I have met all these wonderful people, and I have a whole collection of fan mail. I just cannot believe it, I really canâ€™t. Iâ€™m thinking this is all ridiculous, why would this be happening to me at this stage of my life, when I should be put out to pasture?! I still canâ€™t believe that I am here sitting with you! And to be in the Pantheon you put me in with people like Ralph Rucci, Bill Cunningham, and people like thatâ€¦I donâ€™t deserve it.
M.K.: Oh yes you do. Do you think your talent can be taught? Do you think that most or every woman can have a little piece of what it is that you have or do you think it is so inbred in a person that you either have it or donâ€™t?
I.A.:Â Well, thatâ€™s what I really think (the latter) and Harold had a lovely little piece in the exhibit that urged, â€œThis is a very tricky thing, donâ€™t try it at homeâ€. However, people can do something else that I have tried and I am very gratefulâ€¦the first week of the show a very nice lady came over and she said â€œThank you Mrs. Apfel, thank you, thank youâ€ and I said â€œWhy are you thanking me?â€ And she said â€œWell first for the show, but frankly, youâ€™ve given me courageâ€¦20 years I had this mad moment and I bought this insane necklace that I brought home, tried on, screamed and put back in the boxâ€¦.Now that Iâ€™ve come to your show, Iâ€™ve taken it out and people are admiring it.â€
M.K.Â Do people recognize you on the street and approach you? I.A.: Oh yes, German television wanted to film me shopping at H&M and Bergdorf Goodmanâ€¦itâ€™s interestingâ€¦.the show has touched a pretty wide audienceâ€¦.the people at H&M loved it..they certainly are a different segment of society than those who shop at Bergdorfâ€¦peopleâ€¦women all tell me that they feel liberatedâ€¦.Iâ€™ll show you a letter that I got yesterdayâ€¦this lady said that she collectedÂ fabricsÂ and that she has something she was going to put on a bedspreadâ€¦now it is an evening cape. And this tweed that was going to be something else was now a walking suitâ€¦.Hurray, hurrayâ€¦
M.K.:Â You look absolutely amazing, regardless of ageâ€¦better than most peopleâ€¦What do you think is the most common mistake most women over a certain age make?
I.A.:Â I think they are trying too hard to look young. Coco Chanel once said that what makes a woman look old is trying desperately to look youngâ€¦.and itâ€™s so silly, why should one be ashamed to be 84? Why do you have to say that youâ€™re 52? Nobodyâ€™s going to believe you anyway â€¦ they get their faces done but their hands are still creepy..I mean itâ€™s ridiculous. Why be such a fool? Thereâ€™s nothing wrong and I think itâ€™s nice that you got to be so oldâ€¦.Itâ€™s a blessing.
M.K.:Â But donâ€™t you think most older women are urged to wear boring beige from head to toe and to sort of fade into the background?
I.A.:Â Not only older women, younger women too.
M.K.:Â Thereâ€™s too much good taste around, donâ€™t you agree?
I.A.:Â Absolutely. A lovely lady, Jessica Kagan Cushman who makes jewelry, working in scrimshaw on ivory, gave me this wonderful bracelet that subsequently someone stole from me at a restaurant when I took it off for just seconds. Anyway, it said something like, â€œFashion can be bought. Style you must ownâ€. You can teach people good taste and you can teach people to be tolerant and liberated and openâ€¦you can even teach them how to be more courageousâ€¦but there is a certain â€˜somethingâ€™ that canâ€™t be taughtâ€¦Can you teach someone to paint like Michelangelo? You canâ€™t. It is an art form.
M.K.:Â Itâ€™s having an amazing eye and intuitively knowingâ€¦.
I.A,:Â Yesâ€¦ I just feel somethingâ€¦I had a client once when I was in the interior design businessâ€¦who was a very untutored ladyâ€¦she had no schoolingâ€¦but she had inherent great tasteâ€¦and so one day I said â€œColleen, why did you pick that?â€ she said â€œYou know why? Feels good hereâ€. (And Iris motioned with her hands) I got to feel when I see something it is a physical, chemical senseâ€¦itâ€™s not intellectual. Itâ€™s just somethingâ€¦.
M.K.:Â I always think of Diana Vreelandâ€™s quote, â€œBad taste is better than no tasteâ€â€¦Donâ€™t you think that a little bit of bad taste is what makes fashion interesting?
I.A.:Â Oh absolutely! I think that when youâ€™re so well put together, I mean like so many homes todayâ€¦and I hate what is done today, like standard equipmentâ€¦and thatâ€™s what it isâ€¦. everybody has to have the basic bigÂ sofaÂ with the two French chairs and the Coromandel screenâ€¦itâ€™s just cookie-cutter.
M.K.:Â Well talk about cookie-cutter, and since we are now entrenched in the red carpet seasonâ€¦what do you think of the typical and predictable â€œred carpet styleâ€? The whole idea that it â€œtakes a villageâ€ to make a star what with the stylist, the long gown showing a lot of boobs, and borrowed diamondsâ€¦By the way, did you see the Golden Globes?
I.A.:Â Yes, but there was very little jewelry in that show. I thought the girls looked dreadfulâ€¦
M.K.:Â Was there anyone that you thought looked good?
I.A.:Â Yes there was, whatâ€™s her name?…. S. Epatha Merkerson, the lovely black actress on â€˜Lackawanna Bluesâ€™..who said she was 53â€¦She had a simple long sleeved black dress and she had diamond earrings and she looked stunning. She looked appropriate and she looked great, and she wasnâ€™t trying to make a statementâ€¦ These people donâ€™t even look appropriate. They look silly. The stylists, I think, should be tarred and fathered or sent to rehabâ€¦. Itâ€™s quite awfulâ€¦these girls, evidently have no education and no frame of reference, but â€¦it was really sad, I thought that was one of the worstâ€¦.
|M.K.:Â What irks you most about fashion today? What do you see that bothers you most about it?|
I.A.:Â I think some of it is sort of insane and some of it is not for grown womenâ€¦There are lots of things that would look amusing on a 12 year old, but then you see some ladies of a certain age trying to wearing itâ€¦you know, down to hereâ€¦itâ€™s all so ridiculous.
M.K.:Â Is there any particular trend right now that you are seeing on the street that you donâ€™t understand at all? Anything current?
I.A.:Â Well on the streets in New York in the summer, everybody looks like theyâ€™re going to the showerâ€¦the flip flopsâ€¦itâ€™s so awful.
M.K.:Â What is it your summer uniform when youâ€™re in town? What would you wear on a really hot day?
I.A.:Â Well I live in jeans usually so I wear a lot of jeans, theyâ€™re cool, and theyâ€™re warm theyâ€™re everything. Or I wear linen and a shirt or simple trousersâ€¦
M.K.:Â And you always accessorizeâ€¦Do you ever go out without accessories?
I.A.:Â Well not really. I feel naked. Sometimes when itâ€™s very cold, I must admit I cannot wear silver jewelry because it gets too cold and I cannot wear my silver eyeglasses because it burns my noseâ€¦but I always wear something. I couldnâ€™t live without my accessories.
M.K.:Â New York Fashion Week is upon us. I know that youâ€™re a customer and friend and always go to Ralph Rucciâ€™s shows. Are there any other invitations that youâ€™ve received?
I.A.:Â No, nobody invites me. I know Ralph so heâ€™s always invited meâ€¦But I met Michael Vollbracht (head of design for Bill Blass) who is adorable and who was a guest at a luncheon given in my honor in Palm Beach, and he cameâ€¦and so we sort of fell in love, heâ€™s a very, very nice manâ€¦.very talented. We are residents of Palm Beachâ€¦.but we keep this place because we come and goâ€¦I am still workingâ€¦we sold our company to Stark Carpets 13 and Â½ years agoâ€¦but weâ€™re still there as consultants.
M.K.:Â I just want to go back to the idea of the designers. I know that you wear Ralph Rucciâ€™s clothes. What other contemporary designersâ€™ clothes do you wear?
I.A.:Â I.A.: I love Gianfranco Ferreâ€¦Geoffrey Beene I adoredâ€¦although he is gone I know theyâ€™re trying to carry onâ€¦I hope it works, I hope it worksâ€¦. I like architectural clothesâ€¦I also like amusing clothes and I like Moschino, and I like Gauthier, and I like Kriziaâ€¦I still wear my Galanoses I think Jimmy is just the greatestâ€¦.so wonderful and self-effacingâ€¦and Norellâ€¦.I love Norellâ€¦I have everybodyâ€™s clothes because everybody has something that I likeâ€¦.but there are designers that I like butâ€¦they donâ€™t make my kind of clothesâ€¦
M.K.:Â Are there any kinds of clothes or styles that categorically, you can honestly say, â€œI would never wear that?â€
I.A.:Â Well Madame Gres was certainly marvelous but her chiffon dresses are just not for me. I donâ€™t wear Chanel because I feel that..if I had a granddaughter I would be wearing her. They just donâ€™t hang right. That doesnâ€™t take away from the fact that they are brilliant they are wonderful, but I am happy in architectural clothes. I have a number of Yves Saint Laurent thingsâ€¦This (referring to her black leather tunic shirt) is YSLâ€¦Then I buy a lot of things that donâ€™t have labels. When I went to H&M I fell in love with a fake fur and a skirt and they were both on saleâ€¦I paid $29 for the skirt and $79 for the fake fur.
I.A.:Â I donâ€™t care what people thinkâ€¦I learned a long time agoâ€¦I was 19 and had a very traumatic experienceâ€¦.and I learned that I have to go to bed with myself at night and that I have to please myselfâ€¦and as long as I donâ€™t go out of my way to offend anybody that I love, upset my mother or my husbandâ€¦Iâ€™ll do my own thing. And if the public doesnâ€™t like it, itâ€™s their problem, not mine.
M.K.: Is there anything you ever put on and looked at yourself in the mirror and said, â€œNope, I canâ€™t go out with this, itâ€™s too over the topâ€?
I.A.:Â No, very rarely. Stephane always says that Iâ€™m â€˜controlled baroqueâ€™. Harold says that underneath all my madness there is some sort of Zen ethicsâ€¦.I try to be controlled, I try to stopâ€¦.Tomorrow I have to do something for â€˜Paperâ€™ and I guess I have to go over the top but then again I donâ€™t know what that isâ€¦Iâ€™m not into that downtown sceneâ€¦.I guess weâ€™ll come up with somethingâ€¦
M.K.: You are not a trend follower. Are there any retail stores that you think do particularly well in drawing people in?
I.A.:Â Bergdorf Goodman was always wonderfulâ€¦Barneys brings in a certain segment of societyâ€¦I have never been able to shop thereâ€¦Years ago Barneysâ€™ clothes only fit smaller women and years ago almost everything was black, beige or taupe. I like color. They do have a wonderful shoe department thereâ€¦
I donâ€™t have much luck believe it or not. One woman almost came to blows with me at the exhibit because she said â€œOh they said you worked but you donâ€™tâ€â€¦I said â€œwhat do you mean I donâ€™t work?â€â€¦ “Well how could you possibly work and have accumulated all this? This is a lifeâ€™s work.” So I said â€œWell I work, I did this on the flyâ€¦I donâ€™t go shopping too oftenâ€¦Itâ€™s like an excursion when I doâ€¦â€¦
M.K.:Â Do you miss the 26th street flea market?
A.I.:Â Oh yes, well all the flea markets are finished nowâ€¦itâ€™s sad, itâ€™s sadâ€¦Everything is gone reallyâ€¦I miss a lot but what can you do? You go onâ€¦.
M.K.: Can you recall the least amount of money you spent on something that was really a true gem? Something that you recognized but that the seller didnâ€™t? (Iris had told me about a tweed and leather Bonnie Cashin coat she paid $7 for at a D.C. flea market)
I.A.:Â Oh yes I have a lot of things like that. Oh thereâ€™s something I just found in Loehmannâ€™sâ€¦.. For my birthday I go to Loehmannâ€™s because I get a 15% discount, itâ€™s very excitingâ€¦and I found this wonderful, wonderful completely beaded coat from Ralph Lauren and it is so gorgeous â€¦all the way down to the floor and I wonâ€™t tell you its price because itâ€™s ridiculousâ€¦itâ€™s divine and very Marlene Dietrich with crystalline beads on white chiffonâ€¦and it was way too long although I am fairly tallâ€¦and I went to three dressmakers and they all said they were afraid to tackle it and I didnâ€™t know what to doâ€¦Ralph Rucci said heâ€™d fix it but I didnâ€™t want to trouble himâ€¦then I met Mr. Ralph Lauren and when I told him he said â€œOh weâ€™ll fix itâ€. So itâ€™s now being fixed. Itâ€™s not like years ago but you can still get very good buysâ€¦.
M.K.:Â You are ageless. What are your beauty and diet secrets? What do you use?
I.A.:Â Oh I donâ€™t have any. I wear no make up, just lipstick.
I.A.:Â My mother used to say that I should use it, she died and I promised I wouldâ€¦.I donâ€™t do any of this, itâ€™s awful.
I.A.:Â I am very active but I donâ€™t do organized exercise. I should. And when I am in Palm Beachâ€¦we have a little gym and a trainer in the building and she gives wonderful classes and I go down every morning but I must admitâ€¦since weâ€™ve started the show which was like seven months agoâ€¦I havenâ€™t done anything.
M.K.:Â What is your â€˜must readâ€™ each month?
I.A.:Â I donâ€™t have any â€œmustâ€â€¦really. I always look at New York Magazine when I am here to see whatâ€™s going onâ€¦I do everything that inspires and moves meâ€¦. M.K.: No fashion magazines?
I.A.:Â No, I lost my interest in what is going on unfortunatelyâ€¦and I donâ€™t understand a lot of magazines, I donâ€™t understand showing $20,000 dresses on 14 year old modelsâ€¦. Doesnâ€™t make any sense to me. I went to a show in Palm Beach recently which had beautiful clothesâ€¦but I had never seen such itsy bitsy modelsâ€¦ I asked, â€œWhat nursery did you rob? And was told, â€œWe really had a problem because our samples were so small, our regular in-house girls couldnâ€™t fit into themâ€. The girls must have been 14 and 15 years oldâ€¦ Now how can an intelligent middle aged or older woman who is a bit buxom relate? I said â€œisnâ€™t that self-defeating?â€ Obviously notâ€¦I think women should learn to look in the mirrorâ€¦
M.K.:Â When I walked around the exhibit there were groups of women who were talking out loud and their conversations were unbelievable, because most of them could not believe that you actually wore those clothes out. Many said, â€œOh she probably designed that just for the exhibitâ€¦.â€ They did not understand that these were actually your clothes worn by you in almost the exact way they were exhibited. I was just wondering if in your travels to the museum you heard any conversations like that?
I.A.:Â Oh yes many timesâ€¦People asked questions like that all the time or they asked â€œwhere do I keep my clothes?â€ â€œdid I wear everything?â€
M.K.:Â And you keep everything in your apartment?
I.A.:Â Oh yes. Itâ€™s not always organized, sometimes itâ€™s under the bed but itâ€™s here.
M.K.:Â And you never had to catalog anything?
I.A.:Â Oh I donâ€™t do that, itâ€™s in my computer (head)â€¦
|M.K.Â When I was at the Met, it was on the Thursday afternoon that cover story about you had come out in the Style section of The New York Times and observed a lot of people walking. I asked one of the guards if he had noticed more people and said â€œyesâ€ so they seem to be very well aware of your exhibit. Do you think the guards helped your cause there?|
I.A.:Â Oh the guards were wonderful, because the first few weeks we had no PR at all and it wasnâ€™t being advertised as it had no sponsor and if the guards werenâ€™t so kind we probably would have had a smaller audience. They loved it which flattered me to no end because they see shows all the time…and one guard would tell his friend who was in the Chinese collectionâ€¦or he would tell his friend who was in the European Collection and before we knew it we had a whole support system. And people would be looking at a beautiful painting and the guard would say â€œIf you really want to see a good show go downstairs to the Costume Instituteâ€. The same thing happened at the desk, people would ask for instructionsâ€¦ â€œPlease tell me how to get to the Prague showâ€ and they were told, â€œif you want to do yourself a favor after the Prague show go down and see the costume collectionâ€.
And everybody who saw itâ€¦itâ€™s incredible, they all brought people, they all came back with several friendsâ€¦and it just mushroomed. The thing thatâ€™s incredible is…so many people have come 2, 3, 4â€¦.I had a man who told me heâ€™s been back seven timesâ€¦It seems to have touched a nerve. It seems to be something that people have wanted for a very long time and they are so happy that itâ€™s happened. The women feel liberated and we have lots of men coming. Women come and tell me that theyâ€™re so happy that their husbands come and have aÂ good timeÂ and donâ€™t complain. Some of the men have asked to come back a second time.
M.K.:Â I was recently at a CFDA party and I spoke with several designers and I had mentioned that I was interviewing you and they all said â€œOh my God sheâ€™s so fabulous, I want to send her somethingâ€¦â€
I.A.:Â Oh that would be marvelous! Michele Stein (a well known fashion figure who reps several top Milanese designers) wanted me to come and see the showâ€¦and asked me to ring her up at my first opportunity to take her through along with her staffâ€¦.And she said â€œThis is absolutely incredibleâ€¦I just got off the phone with Romeo Gigli and he told me that his next collection is based on your showâ€â€¦I was really flattered, itâ€™s incredible.
M.K.:Â So you might have to go to Paris and see his fall collectionâ€¦maybe the models will all come out wearing your black framed owl glassesâ€¦
I.A.:Â I have a pair of Romeoâ€™s black trousers with white beadsâ€¦
M.K.:Â When he first started showing his collections in Milan in the eightiesâ€¦it was just incredible.
I.A.:Â It was very magical. I love wild imagination thatâ€™s under control. I donâ€™t like what some of these wacky people are doing now but I do like when designers take careâ€¦Thatâ€™s what I admire so much about Ralphâ€¦.everything is so beautifully madeâ€¦I mean itâ€™s just gorgeous.
M.K.:Â Itâ€™s just like Geoffrey Beene. You could turn it inside out.
I.A.:Â Well if you want to turn things inside out you should take a trip to Galanosâ€¦His insides are sometimes more beautiful than outsideâ€¦.
M.K.:Â I remember his shows when I was at Harperâ€™s Bazaar and he used to take a suite at the Plaza Hotel and painstakingly show everything by himself.
I.A.:Â I have been taken to one of those shows by an old friend who was in the fashion business and I was thrilled to pieces and that night I went to a party and Geoffrey Beene happened to be thereâ€¦and there was a couple of very young fashion writersâ€¦.And they said to me, â€œwe went to the weirdest show todayâ€¦there was no big music and everything was so quiet and the models were just walking with little signs with just numbers, isnâ€™t that strange?â€ I said â€œNo darling thatâ€™s the way it used to beâ€â€¦Thatâ€™s the way you should have a fashion show, you should be there to look at the clothes, not to get up and danceâ€¦I donâ€™t know how people can concentrate with the music. Some fashion shows are really just spectaclesâ€¦
M.K.:Â What is the most memorable show that you have ever seen?
I.A.:Â Well I guess itâ€™s because I was much younger and because it was Balenciagaâ€¦.But I donâ€™t know if you remember Sidney Gittlerâ€¦.
M.K.:Â I know the nameâ€¦
I.A.:Â He was very important he started a line for Orbachs. And once for my birthday he said â€œyouâ€™re going to be in Paris, let me take you to a Balenciaga openingâ€â€¦.And oh my God that was incredibleâ€¦I adore Balenciaga.
M.K.:Â What do you think of what Nicolas Guesquiere is doing for the label now?
I.A.:Â Well. Itâ€™s not Balenciagaâ€¦.I donâ€™t know much about it, I havenâ€™t seen too much.
M.K.:Â And what do you think of the other current editorial darlings: Olivier Theyskens for Rochas and Alber Elbaz for Lanvin?
I.A.:Â I had a friend who said, â€œIf you are in Paris you have to meet my friend Alber Elbazâ€. We had just come from tea at the British Embassyâ€¦we had had no time for lunch and it was cold and we were starving and we went up to Lanvin where Alber was doing his collections and he was just like a Jewish mother. He was so sweet. I think heâ€™s a big talent. And I always like when someone is a talent and a person.
M.K.:Â You mentioned that you like Ralph Rucciâ€™s models.
I.A.:Â Yes because they all are good looking women but theyâ€™re not distinctive and theyâ€™re not supermodels. When Naomi Campbell comes out you look at Naomi first. The clothes are secondaryâ€¦.But Ralphâ€™s models are very well trained and you can look at the clothes which is what you go to the show for.
M.K.:Â Ralph told me that I had to ask you to tell me the story about the Mongolian lamb.
I.A.:Â Oh he loves this story. I was the first one in America to have a Mongolian lambâ€¦Oh God, it goes back a thousand yearsâ€¦.we were going down the Rue St. Honore and you know how it curls sometimesâ€¦.it was in the early sixtiesâ€¦.A photographer was dragging his equipment and this coat and a hatâ€¦and I saw the most wonderful thing – this coatâ€¦my hair was like that at the time, it went from black to whiteâ€¦.and I said to the cab driver, â€œOh my God. Stop, stop! Let me outâ€ And I jumped out and I followed this poor guy and he went into Lanvin so I followed him upstairs and he was returning this coat that was part of a collectionâ€¦He had it on a photo shoot and I spoke to the vendeuse and I said â€œI must have that coatâ€ and she said â€œOh I am sorry but itâ€™s in the collection and I canâ€™t sell it to you nowâ€¦come to the collection and if you like it weâ€™ll make you one.â€ I said â€œIÂ have no timeÂ to come to the collection, I am here working. I have to have that coat and I canâ€™t waitâ€â€¦I carried on so she promised me that after the two shows, I could have it. So I grabbed it and went back to New York…it was a three quarter simple Mongolian fur coat and it had a great matching hat and I liked it so because when I put it on you could not tell where the fur ended and I began! Itâ€™s one of my favorite purchases that I still wear.
M.K.:Â That wasnâ€™t in the exhibit.
I.A.:Â No. There were so many things that they wanted to use but they didnâ€™t have the space. We could have had, literally, Harold will tell youâ€¦.Stephane as well..at least 3 more shows. I have so much stuff.
M.K:Â Well letâ€™s hope they plan another one.
I.A.:Â Oh I am sure they wonâ€™t. One is enough!
M.K.: How did you feel about the title of the exhibit, â€˜Rara Avisâ€™ (which is Latin for â€˜rare birdâ€™)?
I.A.:Â I guess I didnâ€™t really â€˜get itâ€™ at first but then I was informed by Stephane that the late Richard Martin, (the famed former Curator of the Costume Institute) used to refer to me as “that rare bird” so it grew on me. I guess that wouldnâ€™t have gone over). But then I was told that Richard Martin (the famed former curator of the Costume Institute) used to refer to me as â€œthat rare birdâ€ so it grew on me.
M.K.:Â Out of curiousity, what would you have called it if you had your say?
I.A.:Â (Laughing) Oh, probably something like, Out of the Closet, though I don’t think that would have gone over too well.
M.K.:Â I want to thank you so much for letting us in your fabulous apartment.
I.A.:Â Well it was a great pleasure to have you. It is such an honor for me as I said. To be associatedâ€¦with people like Ralph Rucci and Bill Cunningham, oh my God! Like I died and went to heaven!
M.K.:Â Well you completely deserve the recognition; youâ€™re a true original and youâ€™ve inspired so many people. Thatâ€™s what life is really all about.
I.A.:Â Well I hope I have.
M.K.:Â Thank you.
I.A.:Â Oh thank you!
(Transcription and initial editing by Muriel Triffaut)