Ibulliance: Freeing The Rare Bird of Fashion

Freedom of expression is the most important thing—expressing yourself—because if you don't, you're just choking.  Free! Free! Free!   

Her fingers fly out with each exclamation of free! puncturing the air as though she must have more sky under which to express her utterly unique person. Rara Avis, according to The Metropolitan Museum, which exhibited her collection of global clothing in 2006, this rare bird of fashion went on to become a geriatric starlet, inspiring millions of young women with her adventurous, ageless, and sometimes audacious style. 

Style is something that's integral. It's something that's you. It's part of your psyche. You have to study yourself to learn who you are… this requires some hard work, but if you don't do it, you can copy someone else's style, but it won't be yours, said Iris. 

Iris and her husband, Carl, started Old World Weavers in 1950 because she was looking for some fabric she couldn't find. In France and Italy, they reproduced on handlooms exact copies of 17th, 18th, 19th, and early 20th-century fabrics for museums, designers, and nine presidents at the White House. But it was her side trips to North Africa and Middle East that cultivated her taste for the exotic.

A lot of ethnic clothing is very architectural, which I like. The colors are so sophisticated, she exclaimed, heaping piles of beaded necklaces from Nepal over a vintage Turkmen jacket, Moroccan silver bangles up her sleeve, and Turkish slippers below. The fun of getting dressed is that it's a creative experience, she said, and I never know how it's going to turn out.

When I met Iris in 2019, then only 97 years old, at the introduction of two dear mutual friends, she sat down over dinner to learn about the Ibu Movement, aligned with our efforts through her own work at Old World Weavers and said to our small team, well, I think the work you're doing is brilliant—you're doing noble work—god's work. That's a blessing I've carried in my heart since that day; since that day she modeled our Ibu clothes and mixed our accessories with her own, and made them sing.

Iris Apfel died on March 1 at the age of 102. I'm grateful to my friends who introduced us, for the days we spent together, for the light she shone on our artisan partners and the freedom she loosed on the fashion world. I celebrate Iris and what I learned from her: know yourself. Be bold. Be fearless. Be timeless. Be ageless. Be free. Be yourself. And, as Iris said, while you're at it…

All the Best,