When Iris Apfel comes to town, Paris pays attention. Just last night, Azzedine Alaïa hosted an intimate dinner in her honor. And while that alone might seem like motive enough to jump on a seven-hour flight, the initial reason the 94-year-old interior designer-turned-fashion icon traveled to the City of Light was to fete Iris in Paris, her new collaboration with Le Bon Marché. Featuring an illustrated window display, an exhibition of some of Apfel’s most memorable ensembles, and a range of products that includes jewelry, handbags, and iterations of her signature saucer-like glasses, the project is not to be missed (so pop by before it wraps on April 16). Before her bash at the department store, we met up with Apfel at Saint Germain’s Hotel Sofitel. Holding court in the lobby, she donned a graphic black-and-white ensemble comprising vintage trousers, beads and bangles the size of her head, black glasses, black sneakers, and a Gianfranco Ferré top. Here, the famously unfiltered tastemaker talks her latest collaboration, her hatred of social media, Alber Elbaz’s departure from Lanvin, and how fashion has helped her cope during one of the most difficult periods of her life.
Katharine K. Zarrella: When did you arrive in Paris?
Iris Apfel: Yesterday.
KZ: A little jet-lagged?
IA: Oh, I don’t know. I was tired before I came.
KZ: Do you remember the first time you came to Paris?
IA: Oh, yeah. I wouldn’t forget that. I came here first in ’52 and I was enchanted. It was very different then. You had to go to restaurants early. Last night we got to the restaurant at about 8:30 and we were the only ones there. As we were leaving, people started to come in. People eat much later. I think when people eat so late it’s a sign of a degenerating society.
KZ: Why’s that?
IA: Well, because people go to bed so late and get up the next day and go to work. If they get up then they take a siesta and they’re tired when they get up. It doesn’t make any sense.
KZ: I’m very excited about your project with Le Bon Marché. How did it come about?
IA: Well, they called me up and said they wanted to do something. I was very flattered because I think it’s certainly the greatest department store in Europe, but probably in the world. We have a lot of big department stores [in the States], but not at such a level.
KZ: How do you feel about seeing your likeness everywhere and having all these major brands and institutions asking to work with you?
IA: It’s fun. I like it.
KZ: Did you ever expect…
IA: Oh, God no. How would I expect such a stupid thing?