Sunday, 1 August 2021

Part 3, My fashion inspriation - Iris Apfel


So far, I've noticed my style inspiration has abeen women who we would consider clsssically beautiful. - Marilyn Monroe and Kate Moss are considered some of the most beautiful women of their time. However,  style and classic beauty don't necessarily go hand in hand. You can be the most stylish person in the room and not be classically beautiful. Beauty isn't always about the golden ratio and the 'perfect face'. Beauty comes from knowing yourself, being comfortable in your skin. However, great style is certainly about aesthetics. While 'ugly fashion' is certainly a thing, (think crocs, socks and sandals, geek chic, mum jeans and dad trainers), fashion in general, is about the beautiful and looking good. And style is no different.

Part 3 of my style inspo series is going to look at one woman who might not have Kate Moss's bone structure, or Marilyn Monroe's sexy vulnerability and classic beauty, But Iris Apfel has more style than all the women on my list put together. For me, Iris Apfel's style radiates it's own perfection. One of the main reasons I love Iris's style, is that she loves a good accessory as much as I do. Sure, her clothes are bold and she puts things together in a way I could never imagine doing - she's one of those people who can clash prints perfectly, in that Miu Miu way that I seem to struggle with = but Iris clearly loves her jewellery and her glasses - and as such, is a woman after my own heart. If I could spend a day poking around Iris's jewellery collection, I would be one happy, shiny magpie.  Just don't ask her what her favourite accessory is. When one fashion journalist dared raise the subject, she was rebuffed immediately, "Why do you fashion people always ask that question? I have several accessories, I couldn’t pick just one! It’s like asking me ‘Who is your favourite child?’

In a paean to Iris on her 99th birthday, journalist Kettj Talon wrote: "Mrs Apfel's style is unconventional, eccentric, excessive, bold, layered, coloruful, baroque. Dressing for Iris is a process of jazz improvisation. Following only her rhythm and attitude, Iris is a master at mixing pieces found in flea markets with others of haute couture. Her outfits are a free combination of eras, cultures, made of everything she loves: bracelets, bright colours, bold prints, Balenciaga, Dries Van Noten, Oscar de la Renta, marabou feathers, furs, plastic jewellery, ethnic garments, denim,  Her motto? "Forget the rules, if you like it wear it.""

Iris celebrating her 99th birthday. She is due to celebrate her 100th this month

Iris Apfel turns 100 next month and is considered one of the most stylish women in the world. Unconventional, eccentric, excessive, Iris has subverted every rule, destroying stereotypes and taboos about age, showing that to become an 'It girl' you don't need to be in your twenties, but, above all, that getting old doesn't necessarily mean mortifying yourself and dressing frumpily. Quite the opposite. The only important thing is to stay true to yourself - a mantra Iris repeats over and over.

Whereas most 'It' girls have faded into obscurity well before their first wrinkle (largely because, sadly, the media has little interest in women of a certain age),. but Iris has her own view on the subject, commenting, “If you can’t be pretty, you have to learn to make yourself attractive. I found that all the pretty girls I went to high school with came to middle age as frumps, because they just got by with their pretty faces, so they never developed anything. They never learned how to be interesting. But if you are bereft of certain things, you have to make up for them in certain ways. Don’t you think?”

Iris's style is immediately recognisable. Although a fashion icon, she is no fashion victim. Iris has always dressed in her own style and to her own taste. With her shock of white hair, ginormous black round rimmed glasses and bold lipstick and nails her beauty regime appears as the only constant, because  her outfits take in everything from the baroque to renaissance art, bright bold clashing colours are common and then there's the jewellery I already mentioned. With her more is more attitude, Jewish New Yorker Iris style manages to look perfectly styled even though her outfits are usually utterly extravagant and completely mad. Iris looks like she's rolled naked around every floor in MoMA, clothing herself in every great genre of art from contemporary to ethnic to classical , and then dived headfirst into Aladdins Cave and come up trumps. Her outfits are truly inspirational.

Iris and her hustand, Carl, in 1947

But from the beginning, who is she, and how did the fame start?

Iris worked her life as an Interior Designer with her husband, Carl, the love of her life and partner for over 70 years til the day he died. They set up their own successful textile company and designing for the Kennedy's as well as a contract with the White House that spanned 9 presidencies. She did not become famous til her mid 80s, when when the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art showed her wardrobe in an exhibit called Rara Avid (Rare Bird): The Irreverent Iris Apfel.  Self deprecatingly, she calls herself a "geriatric starlet". But really she is also a world-famous fashion icon, a regular front-row guest at fashion shows. She has over a million followers on Instagram where she shows off her different outfits in her extravagantly styled apartment. - an apartment that's chock-full of European antiques she's collected on her travels, clashing fabrics, eclectic artwork and racks and racks of her extensive clothing and accessory collections. Architectural Digest's peek inside her home is nothing short of fascinating.

In a recent interview, Iris gave her own take on beauty and style, commenting they were all about individuality and confidence:

“Nothing exists in a vacuum, so of course style and beauty are connected. There's all kinds of beauty – savage beauty, sweet beauty, artificial beauty, even sexy beauty. But it’s all about point of view. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – every culture has its standards of beauty, and those standards change with time. What some tribes consider beautiful we would consider hideous, and vice versa. And when we look back on styles from the past, sometimes we think “ugh, awful,” and at other times we think “how beautiful.” If everybody thought the same thing was beautiful all the time, it would be pretty awful!

“Beauty is largely in your head. When you’re somebody who’s not a natural beauty, but you're attractive, it’s about smoke and mirrors in a way. There are certain things I know look more attractive on me than others, and certain ways that my hair looks better. If you spend a little time on yourself, you usually get results. And confidence is very important. No matter how pretty you are, if you look ill at ease in your own skin, then you're not going to look so beautiful. I think serenity can be a large part of someone’s beauty.

When it comes to clothes, Iris stauncly beleives style has nothing to do with money:

When asked if it is possible to buy style, Iris responded "Style has nothing to do with money. It's a matter of attitude. The most stylish people I ever saw were in Naples right after the Second World War. They were really threadbare but put themselves together with so much dash, like placing a flower in the buttonhole of a tattered suit."

"I like simple, architectural clothes. With accessories, you can make 50 outfits. I learned that from my mother because I was a child of the Depression."

Most importantly Style is not about what you wear, but how you wear it:

“Style is not about wearing expensive clothes. You can have all kinds of money and have no style at all. You can be dressed in the latest couture, shod in ten-thousand-dollar shoes and be baubled to the nines, and look like a Christmas tree. It’s not what you wear but how you wear it.

Iris Apfel immortalised at 96 with her own image Barbie weraing a copy of her green Gucci suit and oversized glasses

“I’m just as happy to wear bangles that cost me three dollars as I am to wear valuable pieces — and I like to mix high and low, putting things together to wear as the spirit moves me. When you try to hard to have style, you look uncomfortable, like you’re wearing a costume, like the clothes are entering the room before you do. If you’re uptight, you won’t be able to carry off even a seemingly perfect outfit. If that’s happening, I say abandon the whole thing. It’s better to be happy than well dressed.”

While I admire Iris' ability to clash patterns and colours, she would be a pretty difficult style inspiration for someone who lives in black - you would think. But Iris does do black. we have witnessed many occasions where the style star chooses black instead. She, of course, has a range of jet-black jewellery to throw on, but when it comes to wearing darker clothes, her outlook revolves around texture, texture and more texture. Think embroidery, Mongolian lambswool, beading, fur, leather and silks.

Similarly, one might consider such a conoisseur of fashion, too high-brow to wear jeans. Not Iris. In fact, Iris counts herself as one of the first women to interpret the humble worker's trouser into her wardrobe.
Iris had a lot to say about the garment when talking to Architectural Digest in 2011: "Have you seen the prices? Scandalous. I mean, yes, if they are embroidered or beaded or made special in some divine way, but honestly, jeans are jeans. I live in them most of the time, but I had a helluva time getting a pair of jeans around 1940, when I was at the University of Wisconsin. I thought I'd wear jeans, a turban, and some old earrings. So I went to an Army-Navy store, but you have to remember, back in those days, all the men in Wisconsin were the size of Paul Bunyan. Then the salesman told me, 'young ladies don't wear jeans.' He wouldn't sell me any or have them cut down. So I kept going back to the store, and they kept throwing me out, so to get rid of me, they finally ordered me some boys' jeans. I love men's jeans; they fit me better."

On style today Apfel had this to say. “In New York you can almost tell a person’s zip code by the way they dress. People say they want to look different but they all want to be in a pack… God put you on the earth as an individual, not as a pack-member.”

So who does the World's Greatest Style Icon consider stylish? No-one young today, according to one interview, but she did profess to admire several ladies once. Iris has never followed the rules of fashion and always dressed following only her instinct and personal taste, but, besides her mother, there are three muses that have influenced Apfel's style with their unique and unconventional attitude: Pauline de Rothschild, Millicent Rogers and Elsie de Wolfe aka Lady Mendl, socialite and the first woman interior designer in history.

Speaking on how to develope your own personal style, she says the key is to put in effort. “First of all it’s work. You have to know who you are. You have to know yourself,” she says. “You have to know what you can pull off, what you feel comfortable with, what you can afford; all of that and work accordingly,” adding that doing your research is crucial. “Look at a lot of magazines, shops, other people, hone your eye and decide what you like.”

Ultimately Iris's attitude is to keep your youthful wonder and not take yourself or fashion too seriously:

"When you get older, as I often paraphrase an old family friend, if you have two of anything, chances are one of them is going to hurt when you get up in the morning. But you have to get up and move beyond the pain. If you want to stay young, you have to think young. Having a sense of wonder, a sense of humour, and a sense of curiosity — these are my tonic.

They keep you young, childlike, open to new people and things, ready for another adventure. I never want to be an old fuddy-duddy; I hold the self-proclaimed record for being the World’s Oldest Living Teenager and I intend to keep it that way.”

Iris also maintains a healthy perspective, not one to starve herself into the latest fashions : “I think being happy is much more important. I mean, if you’re plump and you like willowy-looking clothes then…starving yourself is not pleasant. Just forget about those clothes. Clothes are not the most important thing in the world,” Apfel says. “Dressing up should be a joyful, fun experience for yourself… for some people it’s an easy job and for other people it’s a chore. And if you look up-tight and you’re unhappy with it then I think it’s better to look like everybody else than be unhappy.” 

When asked what style mantra she lived by, Iris answered, 

I don’t live by style, I have a lot of other things to live by. I don’t have any mantras, I don’t have any rules, I dress the way I please and I do what I please and I do everything for my good. I don’t intellectualise it or make up rules and regulations.

Spoken like a true style icon. Happy Birthday Iris!!!

Saturday, 24 July 2021

Is Wearing the Same Outfit Every Day the Way of the Future?

 I recently wrote about a friend of mine at school who changed her style every day. One day she would come in dressed in a preppy Heathers style outfit, in pastel hues and a Ralph Lauren jumper tied around her shoulders. The next day she'd be rocking an old school hip hop theme in a three stripes adidas tracksuit and baseball cap with gigantic gold hoop earrings. When you next saw her she would float in wearing 70s flares and a skinny t-shirt, looking like one of Charlie\s Angels with perfect swishy hair and glossy smile. This kind of dressing obviously takes a lot of thought and planning. It must have taken hours to get her outfits so perfectly aligned to each theme, even down to the smallest accessory. Either she was a stylist extraordinaire, or she had a lot of time on her hands.

Outfit planning can be stressful

For people interested in fashion and who enjoy fashion, outfit planning is one of the joys of getting dressed, but also one of the biggest stresses. How many times have we stood in front of a mirror on a Friday night, huge pile of rejected clothes on the bed, trying to decide which outfit looks best, only to return, 2 hours later, to the first thing you tried on?

Outfit planning can most certainly be a pain. Especially if you are someone who doesn't have a lot of time on their hands. If you were say, Mark Zuckerberg for instance, or someone like Steve Jobs, whose every waking moment is carefully planned from the second you woke up, to the moment you went to bed, having to factor in an hour or even half an hour, hell even 10 minutes where you might have to decide what to wear for the day, there are probably a million other things you'd consider more important that you could be doing with that time. Your morning schedule might look something like thins:

5.15am Wake Up, greet the day, be served a green tea, Apple Cider Vinegar water and a protein shake by the maid

5.40am Practice 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation

5.50am 30 minutes on the running machine whist 'running through' the days planning with your PA

6.20am Shower, shave, etc

6:45 Breakfast, served to you by the maid, porridge, fruit, wheat free, gluten free toast

7.00am Get dressed

7:01am Open your emails, take your first business calls

7:10am Fire Jim from accounting and promote Daphne into Jim's post while having first massage of the day

7:40am Business meeting with CEO of Chinese branch of operations

8:10am Business meeting with Sarah, Joe and Mo from Design Team. Shoot down 6 months of their  hard work on what colours the new range of phones should be. Rose gold is officially out you tell them 

8:13am Call one of your underlings to fire Mo because you didn't like how sad he looked when you told him rose gold was dead

8:15am Car arrives to take you into office. You send it away and decide you want to cycle in today.

It's only 8.15, you've accomplished more in 3 hours than most have in their week. Where in your day can you fit in 'choosing your outfit.? Sure you could have someone else do it for you  - you could easily afford to have your own personal stylist at hand every hour of the day, but what kind of control freak would you be (and people like Mark and Steve undoubtedly are) if someone else was choosing your outfits for you every day? You wouldn't even let your mum dress you after the age of 2, you couldn't stand the thought of someone else having that much control over your image now.

So what do the Marks and Steve's of the world do? Rather than wasting your time or mental effort on something so trivial as what to wear and getting dressed, they simply wear exactly the same thing every day.

Inside Mark Zuckerberg's wardrobe

Getting to look inside a billionaire's wardrobe is not an everyday occurrence. When in June 2017, after the birth of his daughter, Mark Zuckerberg invited us all to do just that, , the entire world scrutinised it minutely. We wondered whether there might be bespoke big cat-style pinstripe outfits available. A row of Patek Philippe timepieces? Goldfish-filled glass platform heeled shoes? In fact, rather boringly, it was none of the above. The Facebook co-founder disclosed his wardrobe in a post -  on Facebook - in which he joked about confronting a difficult sartorial decision on his first day back at work following parental leave. Rather than flashy luxury clothing, Zuckerberg's wardrobe consisted entirely of grey marl T-shirts and zip-up hoodies. The morning routine of an entrepreneurial genius appears to be designed to eliminate the time wasted each day selecting how to change clothing. Presumably also delineating that when one reaches the wealth ranks of a Zuckerberg, one can wear whatever one fancies, quite frankly. The 31-year-old has seldom been photographed wearing anything different, as this is the unofficial uniform of IT start-ups. However, eradicating any traces of colour fluctuation is a daring new step. Zuckerberg's reasoning for his super-minimalist, frugal stance on clothing was quite straightforward, is it that he has no fashion sense? Is it a personal branding thing? He claims:

“I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community,”….

Similarly, ex-President Barrack Obama always wore a grey or blue suit with a bluish tie. His reasoning:

“You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make. You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia..”

Steve Jobs in his famed outfit

The person who first popularised the idea of wearing the same thing every day was in fact, Steve Jobs with his black turtleneck, blue Levi jeans and New Balance sneakers.. He argued that the less time spent on rudimentary tasks such as choosing your clothes or what you're going to have for breakfast every day, the more time and brain power you have for more important decisions.

But is it actually true? Does cutting down the choices you make in any given day allow you to reserve your brainpower for more important matters?

Decision fatigue — or, more precisely, cognitive fatigue — is a well-documented psychological condition. It was initially found in individuals suffering from cognitive impairments as a result of a neurological disease, trauma, developmental problem, or brain injury. When confronted with everyday decisions, psychologists discovered that persons who have experienced such issues or trauma frequently tyre more readily and faster than the general population.

Psychologists argue however, that an average healthy person would not normally suffer from such cognitive deficits. We make hundreds of decisions daily. It has been proven that the average person makes 180 decisions a minute while driving. If you're cognitively healthy, having to make one or two less insignificant decisions a day isn't really going to have much impact on your overall brainpower.

Psychologist Dr John M. Grohol argues that decision fatigue cannot be applied to choosing clothes:

"Decision fatigue usually hits people when they are faced with a decision with nearly endless, previously-unknown options. Shopping for a new car, planning a wedding, or finding a new perfect pair of jeans, most people don’t realize all the choices they have to make before prior to the effort. It also appears to be a cumulative effect — the longer you are in the process, the more fatiguing the effort becomes.

But when it comes to picking out our clothes for the day, it’s not the same as decision fatigue studied in research — after all, we’ve already chosen our own wardrobes. That makes the decision qualitatively different than the kinds of decisions faced by people who experience decision fatigue in the many psychological experiments conducted on the phenomenon."

Moreover, he argues it is easy enough to cherry pick a few rich people who abide by a particular habit. But a quick look at the top of Forbes rich list would show just as many people who do change their outfits every day. There are also just as many unsuccessful people who wear the same clothes every day to no positive effect. 

Is choosing not to make a decision regarding what to eat or wear simply cognitive laziness? Possibly. There is no doubt however, that some routine in one's life is a healthy thing. Getting up every day, taking a shower, brushing your teeth - all good things.

Black Mirror episode outfits look startlingly similar to Zuckerberg's wardrobe

However, Is sameness for the sake of sameness a somewhat vacuous goal? Undoubtedly, Dr Grohol argues, especially if it's in the false belief that it will somehow make you more successful in life. After all, did someone not once say that 'variety was the spice of life'? For those of us lucky enough to have a wardrobe of more than just grey t-shirts, there is a certain joy in opening a wardrobe and seeing a burst of different colours, textures, shapes and styles. Where is the joy in a grey uniform? Zuckerberg's wardrobe has echoes of the kind of wardrobes featured in a distopean future dreamed up in an episode of Black Mirror. 

In Michael Ofei's 'An argument for wearing the Same Clothes Every Day', he argues that as well as convenience and simplicity, a uniform represents 'equality and unity across an organisation'. Moreover, he points out, "With a globally standardised uniform, we would no longer be judged on what we wear. Instead, it will be our personality and ideas that create a sense of individuality." It's an interesting point, but not without undertones of a North Korean prison camp. Surely individualised fashion is what makes us human.

It has also been argued that the whole idea of Steve Jobs creating a look due to decision fatigue, is in fact a myth. According to Walter Isaacson’s fully-authorised biography of Steve Jobs, his choice for clothes had less to do with minimalism and more to do with becoming an icon.

In the book, Jobs explains:

On a trip to Japan in the early 1980s, Jobs asked Sony’s chairman Akio Morita why everyone in the company’s factories wore uniforms. He told Jobs that after the war, no one had any clothes, and companies like Sony had to give their workers something to wear each day. Over the years, the uniforms developed their own signatures styles, especially at companies such as Sony, and it became a way of bonding workers to the company. “I decided that I wanted that type of bonding for Apple,” Jobs recalled.

Sony, with its appreciation for style, had gotten the famous designer Issey Miyake to create its uniform. It was a jacket made of rip-stop nylon with sleeves that could unzip to make it a vest. So Jobs called Issey Miyake and asked him to design a vest for Apple, Jobs recalled, “I came back with some samples and told everyone it would great if we would all wear these vests. Oh man, did I get booed off the stage. Everybody hated the idea.”

In the process, however, he became friends with Miyake and would visit him regularly. He also came to like the idea of having a uniform for himself, both because of its daily convenience (the rationale he claimed) and its ability to convey a signature style. “So I asked Issey to make me some of his black turtlenecks that I liked, and he made me like a hundred of them.” Jobs noticed my surprise when he told this story, so he showed them stacked up in the closet. “That’s what I wear,” he said. “I have enough to last for the rest of my life.”

Jobs developed a personal uniform to build his brand.

Alice Gregory, a writer in Brooklyn, also advocates for a personal uniform, she states:

"Wearing a uniform is also a way of asserting your status as a protagonist. This is the reason why characters in picture books never change their clothes: Children—like adults, if they’d only admit it—crave continuity. We recognise Babar in his green suit and crown, Eloise in her suspendered jumper and Madeline in her little yellow raincoat."

Babar in his green suit and crown is instantly recongnisable

And then there is the whole argument of frivolous fashion and wastefulness which is no doubt a serious issue. Landfills full of unwanted cheap sweat shop garments are surely a worse image of our future than a wardrobe full of grey t-shirts?

Perhaps the best approach is some sort of middle ground. 

On the one hand, keeping up with rapid fashion trends and amassing an overflowing wardrobe of clothing only for the sake of expressing your personality is extravagant and unsustainable. 

On the other hand, having a worldwide standardised uniform, as seen in fictional universes in books and films, demonstrates unity, but it is just not practical in the reality we live in today, nor is it, well, fun. 

A personal uniform is a good balance between simplicity and individuality. Investing the effort to create a dependable "superhero" costume is an excellent approach to not only promote your brand, but also allow you just enough room to express yourself creatively through your clothes without being a slave to fashion. Quality over quantity, creativity over repetitiveness, and pink sequin jackets over grey marl t-shirts.