Recognizable by her XXL round glasses, her wide color necklaces and her extraordinary wardrobe, fashion designer Iris Apfel is considered as one of the leading figures in fashion and decoration in the United States.
An exuberant fashion icon, and a witty character with a certain sense of humor, Iris Apfel believes that style has no age. Throughout her life, as she travels, Iris Apfel collects handcrafted pieces, especially the immeasurable jewels that she wears in accumulation, infusing a breath of newness into the high society of New York. At odds with the norms, Iris Apfel is the absolute symbol of more is more and handles with genius the codes of fashion by pushing them further and further.
The 98-year-old style maven has become globally recognized for her signature black round glasses and larger-than-life jewelry. The Queens, New York native launched a textile firm “Old World Weavers” with her late husband Carl Apfel in 1950 and together, the pair ran it until “retirement” in 1992. The word “retirement” is not an idea that sits well with Apfel, though. “That’s worse than death,” Apfel candidly says of retiring. “I think that’s why so many old people have a bad time. They have nothing to do but sit at home and think about themselves.”
One of her latest projects was a truly novel concept: designing statement porcelain jewelry for the major French luxury porcelain house Bernardaud.
During a trip to Paris, Iris Apfel meets fifth-generation chairman and CEO Michel Bernardaud in the eponymous shop on Rue Royale who offers her the artistic direction of a porcelain jewelry collection. To most people, coming up with a truly original idea takes a lot of work, but for Iris Apfel original ideas come naturally.
The resulting collection is called “Be Bold Over”, and it took over two years to develop with frequent meetings in both New York and Paris. The “Be Bold Over” collection is colorful, light, and distinct. It consists of brooches, earrings, cocktail rings, a number of necklaces in various lengths and owl brooches in three different colors. There is one limited-edition piece, a rather ginormous figural necklace with articulated limbs and a 22k gold loincloth, which stands out as Apfel’s favorite. She named him Adam. “I love him. I think he’s whimsical and well-designed,” she says of the necklace.
Apfel has an affinity for owls, which appear in this collection, as well as in Rara Avis, Apfel’s jewelry and accessories collection with HSN. The bird is generally thought to be a reference to her signature oversized glasses.
“Be Bold Over” collection is beautiful. It reflects Apfel’s maximalist aesthetic in terms of scale, and in layering the pieces, especially the necklaces, to dramatic effect.
The pieces are made in the Bernardaud factory in Limoges, France. Distinguished by porcelain beads and disks, the design elements embrace a modernist palette—mainly black and white, alongside Prussian blue, ballet pink, and citron, coupled with flashes of gold. Exaggerated proportions abound, yet the bijoux is surprisingly lightweight. And the necklaces make a marvelous clinking sound when worn in multiples, as Apfel does—layers upon layers of jewelry are one of the foundations of her signature style (her famous oversized glasses being a noteworthy addition).
Bernardaud has pursued a number of artist collaborations over the years (Jeff Koons’ balloon animals, Marina Abramovic’s table sets, Marjane Satrapi’s tea cups & saucer sets, India Mahdavi’s votive candle, etc.), but Apfel represents the first time the house has partnered with a style icon from the world of fashion.
The whole collection is available at www.bernardaud.com