Iris Apfel Receives the Andrée Putman Lifetime Achievement Award

On the eve of her 100th birthday, the style icon receives the highest possible honor from the Créateurs Design Awards to celebrate her indelible impact within fashion and design.

Photography by Ruven Afanador/Zenni

Iris Apfel hardly needs an introduction. Throughout the 99-year-old style icon’s illustrious career, she has worn many hats—literally and figuratively—though she seems keener on oversized eyewear, necklaces, and bangles stacked in jangling multiples. (That’s how we introduced her in a 2015 interview.) After launching a textile firm called Old World Weavers with her late husband Carl in 1950 and spearheading design restoration projects for nine different U.S. presidents, the Queens native’s maximalist sensibilities have permeated nearly every corner of popular culture. Perhaps most notable are an acclaimed 2015 exhibition about her sui generis personal style at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Mattel’s creation of a Barbie doll in her likeness three years later. 

Now, the enterprising nonagenarian has received the coveted Andrée Putman Lifetime Achievement Award on the eve of her 100th birthday. The award stands out as the highest accolade within the annual Créateurs Design Awards, which celebrates best-in-class makers and innovators who are pushing conversations forward within the realm of design. Nominated by a committee of more than 200 top creative minds, Apfel will be enshrined along with previous recipients Robert A.M. Stern and Pierre-Yves Rochon and fêted during Paris Design Week in January. 

Portraits by Bruce Weber

What better occasion than Apfel’s centenary to bestow on her one of the industry’s highest honors? “In an industry full of powerful personalities, Iris’s legacy transcends her body of work into something more,” says Créateurs Design Awards founder Yuri Xavier, “leading her to become a pop culture phenomenon and a crucial figure in the world of fashion and design.” 

“I like style. I think style is very important,” Apfel told Surface in 2015. “I like style because if it’s real style, it’s original, creative, and something that comes from within. It’s nothing that God gave you—though I guess God gave you the ability to do it. But I don’t think getting by on being beautiful is such a wise thing to do because beauty fades and style continues.” 

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