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Fashion Icon Iris Apfel Dead at 102

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Fashion Icon Iris Apfel Dead at 102 3

PHOTO: COURTESY H&M

Apfel was known for her love of colors and prints and created collections for HSN, H&M and more

Fashion icon Iris Apfel has died at age 102 on Friday, a statement published on her Instagram page confirmed.

Stu Loeser, a spokesman for Apfel’s estate, also confirmed her death to the New York Times. She died at her home in Palm Beach, Fla.

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COURTESY CIATE LONDON

Apfel celebrated her iconic 100th birthday in 2021, telling PEOPLE that she considers herself to be an Energizer Bunny who simply loves to work — which she did for her entire life.

“At 100, what else is there to do except sit around? I don’t play bridge. I don’t play golf. I love to work, and I really enjoy what I do,” she shared.

Among those projects were a clothing collection with H&M and a beauty collection with Ciáte London, both in 2022. Both gave the creative an outlet to channel her love of colors and patterns.

“The world can be a gray place, so colors, patterns and textures are a way to bring some fun to life. Same with makeup — I want my lipsticks to be as bright and bold as possible,” she told PEOPLE in August 2022.

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PATRICK MCMULLAN/GETTY

Apfel has become known over the years for her love of colors — and her oversize black-framed glasses. The style icon never set out to be known for her glasses, though. It was purely happenstance. “I always thought eyeglass frames were very stylish accessories,” she told PEOPLE in 2015, adding that she liked to pick up unique frames at flea markets.

“People would say to me, ‘why are they so large?’ and I would say because they are good to see you,” she said, adding, “And that would shut them up.”

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Carl and Iris Apfel in 2008. PATRICK MCMULLAN/GETTY

Though Apfel became a fashion giant in her twilight years, she spent her early years as an interior designer and textile expert. After marrying husband Carl Apfel in 1947, the two started Old World Weavers, a textile company that called the likes of Greta Garbo, Estée Lauder and Marjorie Merriweather Post their clients in the 1950s, according to The New York Times.

Together the Apfels did White House restorations for nine sitting presidents, though the couple took a backseat at the company in 1992 when Stark Carpet took over Old World Weavers.

It wasn’t until the 2000s when Apfel — who told the Guardian in 2018 that she’d like to be remembered as the “world’s oldest living teenager” — started to truly be recognized for her penchant for fashion. After decades of collecting pieces from flea markets and beyond, an exhibit of her fashion finds was opened at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Titled “Rara Avis,” the exhibit opened in 2005 featuring Apfel’s accessories along with fully styled looks she’d worn. She jokingly told The New York Times when the exhibit opened, “This is no collection. It’s a raid on my closet,” adding, “I always thought to show at the Met you had to be dead.”

From there, she was the subject of a documentary called Iris in 2014, directed by Albert Maysles, and worked as a visiting professor at the University of Texas. She told Vogue in 2015 that the university asked her to help “beef up” their fashion program, which she did with gusto, showing the students that fashion isn’t always glamorous.

“I expose them to important jobs in licensing, styling, back-of-museum work, and on and on,” she said, adding that through her program, she would bring students to New York to show them an “intensive” week in the fashion capital. “It has just been mind-boggling for them. They just go bananas. And I’ve learned so much.”

Apfel was born on Aug. 29, 1921, in Queens, New York, and was preceded in death by her husband, who died in 2015 at age 100. She told PEOPLE in 2020 of his death, “We had done everything together and I was devastated.” However, she continued to work, going as far as calling herself a “workaholic.”

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In the last decade of her life, Apfel got real about aging and why she continues to work past the point when many people choose to slow down. She told Today in 2022, “Oh, I love to work. It’s fun because I enjoy it. … I think retiring at any age is a fate worse than death. Just because a number comes up doesn’t mean you have to stop.”

She lived a busy, fulfilling life with no regrets, which she described to Harper’s Bazaar UK in early 2022. She reiterated that there’s nothing in life that she regrets or wishes she’d known earlier, adding, “I don’t live backwards or forwards; I live in the now.”

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