Iris Apfel Discusses Streetwear and the Perils of Dehydration

We chatted with the doyenne of fashion on her collection of smart jewelry, Paris Fashion Week and the industry's current obsession with streetwear.
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We chatted with the doyenne of fashion on her collection of smart jewelry, Paris Fashion Week and the industry's current obsession with streetwear.
Iris Apfel at WiseWear's breakfast celebration. Photo: Courtesy

Iris Apfel at WiseWear's breakfast celebration. Photo: Courtesy

Legendary nonagenarian Iris Apfel has lent her name and quirky touch to several projects in past years, including the "Iris" documentary, an Alexis Bittar campaign with Tavi Gevinson, two Kate Spade campaigns and an "Iris in Paris" exhibition at Le Bon Marché. On Friday morning, the seemingly tireless 94-year-old stopped by The Carlyle hotel to talk about WiseWear's line of luxury smart jewelry (the "Socialite" collection), which made its debut at the International Consumer Electronics Show in January and for which she serves as campaign star.

"I think what the boys are doing is something really wonderful for humanity," Apfel told Fashionista, in reference to the bracelets' distress messaging function. In cases of emergency, the feature allows users to discreetly send texts and geo-tag locations to a list of preapproved contacts with just three taps. Otherwise, the smart bracelets (ranging in price from $295 to $325) are pretty standard relative to the rest of the devices on the market, with features like fitness tracking and mobile notifications. 

At Friday's breakfast celebration, we chatted with Apfel about wearables, designing future collections with WiseWear, Paris Fashion Week and streetwear. Read on for our interview with the feisty muse.

Iris Apfel and WiseWear founder Dr. Gerald Wilmink at the breakfast celebration. Photo: Courtesy

Iris Apfel and WiseWear founder Dr. Gerald Wilmink at the breakfast celebration. Photo: Courtesy

How do you choose which campaigns and collaborations to do?

Oh, I choose them carefully. I choose things that mean something to me that I feel like I belong to and get involved with. I'm very interested in this one particularly because it encompasses many things that I like. And I dehydrate. I always forget to drink enough water. So I really empathize with the fact that, you know, maybe I will get lightheaded one day and fall down. I think that's very, very important. I know a lot of people who have been seriously hurt or who have met their maker as a result. So I think what the boys are doing is something really wonderful for humanity.

We thought once we are doing it — I mean, there's a lot of technological jewelry on the market, but it just goes with sweatpants — we wanted to do something that would look attractive and be very beautiful and be a lovely piece of jewelry and have this added attraction. So we're working on a really nice collection that I think you'll like.

The distress messaging function – was that also your idea?

No, no, no, no. I am the most un-technological person in the world. Actually, in that area I live in the 17th century.

But... you would actually use this?

Oh yes, of course. Definitely.

I read that it's intended for both young women and older women...

Oh yes, there are a lot of young women I know that don't drink enough water and have this problem. No, it's not an age thing.

Iris Apfel at WiseWear's breakfast celebration. Photo: Courtesy

Iris Apfel at WiseWear's breakfast celebration. Photo: Courtesy

What was your favorite show at fashion week?

I wasn't in New York Fashion Week.

No, in Paris.

Oh, in Paris. I was so busy working. I was there. I did a big project with the Bon Marché. The Bon Marché is the oldest, most wonderful department store in Europe. They did an exhibition of some of my things, and I had very little time. I went to only three shows. Of course, Dries Van Noten. He's a personal friend. The show was wonderful.

Which designer would you love to collaborate with in the future?

Oh, there are so many. I have a number of friends. It would be hard to choose. Depends on what I was collaborating on.

Who is your favorite "Instagirl"? [Ed Note: Iris Apfel starred in Kate Spade’s spring 2015 campaign with Vogue-anointed "Instagirl," Karlie Kloss.]

My favorite what?

"Instagirl"?

What's that?

Models who have big Instagram following.

I don't follow Instagram. I mean I don't know anything much about that. I know I have pages on those, which are not mine. People and fans have done them for me. But I don't follow anyone.

Streetwear is a huge trend currently — what are your thoughts on it?

Well, I think streetwear has its place, but it's not high-fashion. I think when you dress, you should be appropriate. I don't think you wear sweatpants if you're going to a cocktail party.

Browse the Socialite collection in the gallery below.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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