“The Party For A Century”: Iris Apfel’s 100th Birthday Extravaganza

Photo by Marilyn Kirschner

Iris Apfel turned 100 on August 29. Last evening, to mark the milestone, she celebrated with 100 or so of her friends on the 107th floor of Central Park Tower, the world’s tallest residential building located at 217 West 57th street. The event, sponsored by Harper’s Bazaar and H&M, may or may not be “The Party of the Century,” but anyway you slice it, it’s assuredly The “Party For a Century.”

Photo by Marilyn Kirschner

Central Park Tower, also known as Nordstrom Tower, was completed in July of 2021. It rises 1,550 feet, with approximately 179 exclusive homes in the building selling from about 1.5 to over 150 million dollars. The venue for the party was a spectacular apartment on the 107th floor with stratospheric 360-degree views of the city and a north-facing balcony. Getting there necessitated a quick but ear-popping elevator ride.

Fern Mallis Iris Apfel & Donna Karan
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

The eclectic guest list included Donna Karan (who was so mesmerized by the views, I thought she was considering buying the apartment), Katie Holmes, Fern Mallis, Linda Fargo, Mickey Boardman, Bruce and Nan Weber, Joanna Mastroianni, Tommy Hilfiger, Gideon Lewin, Timo Weiland, Victor Glemaud (whose Spring 2022 runway show is on Sunday at the Moynihan Station), Aaron Rose Philip, the first black, transgender, and physically disabled model,

Photo by Marilyn Kirschner

No exceptions were made. All requirements for attendance were carefully enumerated in an e-vite sent several weeks prior by Harrison & Shriftman PR, the event’s organizers. As Patrick McMullan, who was there, delightedly snapping away, noted, “I’ve never felt so safe around such a large group of people”. Indeed!

“Iris, who has been on the International Best-Dressed List, has a textured, layered, colorful, eclectic, and larger-than-life style in the tradition of women artists and writers of the past, such as Louise Nevelson or Edith Sitwell. In Iris’s case, however, she is the work of art” – Amy Fine Collins.

Photo by Marilyn Kirschner

Iris’s birthday blowout is not a NYFW event per se, but its timing could not be more apropos on the second day of live shows. Iris is a bona fide celebrity and a well-deserved fashion icon ever since her seminal exhibition at the Met’s Costume Institute, “Rara Avis: Selections from the Iris Apfel Collection,” which opened on September 12, 2005. Legions of women, myself included, left that exhibition inspired by Iris’s colorful, irreverent, and exuberantly idiosyncratic style and her age-defying confidence and bravado.

Joanna Mastroianni & Gideon Lewin
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

Apfel is unofficially credited as the inspiration behind Alessandro Michele’s Gucci’s granny-chic aesthetic when he took the reins from Frida Giannini in 2015. In 2012, Joanna Mastroianni devoted her fall 2021 Ready-to-Wear collection to Iris.

“A room with a view”
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

Iris’s work ethic is equally inspiring. Instead of leading a quiet life of luxury, Apfel is busy signing licensing agreements. She has recently partnered with Zenni Optical on the Iris Apfel Centennial Collection (each guest was handed a pair of the centenarian’s signature round eyeglass frames last evening).

Fern Mallis & Patrick McMullan
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

Apfel is also collaborating with windowfrance.com, based in the South of France, on a range of house art products from sculptures to fine bone china (when we left, we all received a commemorative plate to mark the occasion). And then there’s the alliance with H&M., which makes perfect sense since mixing high and low is one of the things Iris always does with creative aplomb.

Adrienne bon Haes & Marvin Ross Friedman
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

Adrienne bon Haes, and Marvin Ross Friedman are friends with Iris (and Carl) for over 20 years. FYI, Adrienne made her dress fashioning it from two adapted three-dimensional tapestries found in Kathmandu, adding some additional yarn work to compliment and finish, and creating a cashmere shell.

Bruce Weber
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

A special Iris Apfel x H&M global collaboration launches in select H&M stores and online in early 2022. The marigold organza ruffled jacket and satin pants Iris wore last night are part of that collaboration as is the jewelry. One of Iris’s favorite quotes is, “If your hair is done properly and you’re wearing good shoes, you can get away with almost anything.” She checked all the boxes last night and then some.

Photo by Marilyn Kirschner

The dress code for the evening was “Festive Cocktail Attire,” which means everything and anything goes. But really, who cares about dress codes anyway? Iris, who loves to break the rules irreverently, certainly doesn’t. Even at 100, it’s hard to outdo Apfel, who will always be the coolest cat in the room.

Victor Glemaud & Marilyn Kirschner in the lobby of Central Park Tower

When it came time to consider what I would wear, it didn’t take long to surmise that my bold and colorful “Iris” skirt, designed by Stacey Bendet for Alice + Olivia, was a perfect choice. I spotted it in Bergdorf’s window back on March 15, 2018, when the store held a cocktail party to celebrate Iris’s book, “Accidental Icon.”

Linda Fargo
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

Linda Fargo spent five months collaborating with Apfel on the windows and the 3rd-floor pop-up shop, which included borrowed pieces from Apfel’s collection from the Peabody Museum along with jackets and dresses made by designers like Ralph Rucci, Alice + Olivia, Libertine, and Naeem Khan inspired by Apfel with tags utilizing her favorite axioms such as “more is more and less is a bore.”

Iris Apfel & Katie Holmes
Photo: Getty Images

That being said, sometimes “less is more” as exemplified by Katie Holmes who arrived wearing a simple tan long-sleeved top, high waist black trousers with a self cumberbund, simple black pumps, accessorized with edgy gold and ruby earrings and matching cuffs. It was understated yet standout.

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

  1. Some days we REALLY wish we could be in New York City rather than San Miguel de Allende–and you’ve really described one of those days! Love the Iris skirt and your photo of Linda Fargo. And what an incredible space…!

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