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One of the most famous women in fashion, Iris Apfel, is doing the unthinkable: unloading 800 of her prized possessions, collected from a lifetime of shopping. The 92-year-old surprised everyone when she announced that she'd be selling her museum-quality jewelry and home decor directly to the public via the Internet, rather than through a private auction.
Apfel became a recognizable face thanks to a string of Old Navy commercials, but she's much more than a campy icon in a killer pair of glasses. Apfel began her lengthy career in the fashion industry at the industry trade paper Women's Wear Daily, also working with an interior designer and illustrator. She had an eye for style from the beginning, growing up the daughter of a fashion boutique owner in Queens, NY. In 1948, she married Carl Apfel, and two years later they founded the international textile firm, Old World Weavers, which they ran until they left the company 1992. She devoted much of her time to scouring thrift stores, boutiques, and fashion houses worldwide, and she renovated the White House for the administrations of nine presidents including Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton. She also mastered the art of accessorizing and mixing and matching prints like a boss.
Recently, Apfel's memorable style was preserved in an art book, an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, a new wing at the museum's Costume Institute, and an upcoming documentary by legendary director Albert Maysles.
These days, she frequents fashion shows and industry galas, poses for magazine spreads, and has even graced Joanna Mastroianni's runway. In between all that, she serves as visiting professor at the University of Texas at Austin's fashion school. Apfel has also collaborated on a makeup collection for MAC and a glasses collection for Eye-Bobs, and she recently launched her own accessories collection for HSN called Rara Avis (translation: Rare Bird) with prices ranging from $20 to $150 for jewelry, bags, and shoes.
But it's Apfel's latest project that has captivated a worldwide audience. The over 800 vintage items from her expansive collection of personal jewelry, trinkets, and furniture will be available on One Kings Lane from April 5 until it all sells out. (No prices have been released yet.) Among the goods for sale are a hand-painted dressing screen, fine china, gilded dining chairs, a bejeweled snake-shaped arm cuff, a marble-topped antique table, and various dog-themed artworks. Selling the items, which Apfel found scouring the marketplaces of Paris, Marrakesh, and the Middle East, and selling them is part of a grand effort to clear house, as it were. "I just want to get my stuff out," she told elledecor.com. "I want it to all go so I can just make it easy on everybody!" Apfel is allegedly bordering on hoarder status, with the storage facilities she rents in Queens filled to capacity. The fashion legend had forgotten about many of the items up for auction, but others will be hard to part with. "I never buy what someone says is 'in' or a 'must have.' I buy what makes me happy."
— Joanna Douglas