Carl Apfel turns 100

Iris Apfel with husband Carl Apfel in PEM galleries

Iris and Carl Apfel visiting PEM in 2009. Photo by Walter Silver/PEM.

On August 4th New York City raised a glass to celebrate the 100th birthday of Carl Apfel. That name should sound familiar to those still following the rising star of fashion icon Iris Apfel, the subject of PEM’s 2009 exhibition Rare Bird of Fashion. Guests included boldface Manhattan fashion names as well as close family and friends.

Carl looked sharp as a razor in his white and black graffiti print pants, black turtle neck shirt and velvet jacket. Iris was stunning and stood magnificently tall in a cream and silver pant suit with white, gold, gray and clear jewelry.

Guests shared stories and birthday wishes with Carl throughout the evening, often while holding his hand. It was a love fest and a celebration. You could feel the affection in the room.  How often does one get invited to a party for a centurion, and for such a friendly, hip and interesting one at that?

The party was co-hosted by jewelry designer Alexis Bittar and and the guest list was a who’s who of fashion: Designer Ralph Rucci; photographer Bruce Weber; designer Isabel Toledo and her husband, artist and collaborator, Ruben Toledo; designer Naeem Khan; senior vice president at Bergdorf Goodman, Linda Fargo; Creative director and CEO for J. Crew, Jenna Lyons; designer and CEO for Cupcake International, Brenda Lee; publisher for Vow Bride magazine, Kim Wadsworth and many close friends of the Apfels’.  Typically New Yorkers leave the heat of the city for cooler destinations in the summer, but looking around at those in attendance this party was the cool place to be.

New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham, an icon in his own right, was in attendance for his column, Evening Hours. When the party made it into this last Sunday’s column, the Times called it Sentimental Journeys. Although he was an invited guest, Cunningham could not put down his camera and stayed for the entire event. Cunningham also mentioned that he would soon be traveling to PEM to see our current Turner & the Sea exhibit — so keep an eye out!

Lynne Francis-Lunn, the PEM Shop’s director of merchandizing, also made an appearance in Bill Cunningham’s other Sunday column, On the Street, which proclaimed that this summer, grey is the new black.  Lynne is getting a lot of mileage from her vintage Vuokko Marimekko dress and glad she took a chance and ordered it from Finland. Good style does cycle back around.

Cunningham’s fun On the Street video Gray Matters is below. As you’ll see, Lynne made the cut.

Carl’s conversations with guests were captured on video by Albert Maysles, recipient of the 2013 National Medal of the Arts. Maysles is currently working on a documentary about Iris.  His films include the iconic 1975 documentary Grey Gardens and Gimme Shelter, the 1970 film about the Rolling Stones.


Maysles and Carl A

Albert Maysles and Carl Apfel, photo by Lynne Francis-Lunn

PEM was well represented at the party by Chief Curator Lynda Hartigan, Paula Richter, curator for exhibitions and research, as well as Lynne Francis-Lunn and Stacey Pappas from the PEM Shop.

Group Shot B Day

Carl has a keen sweet tooth, so there was special emphasis on the decadent offerings. The birthday cake was a series of spicy layers and guests who celebrated birthdays in the month of August, like Carl and Iris (he’s Virgo and she’s Leo), got special homemade cupcakes. The general consensus at our table was that the best dessert of the evening was a hot Spanish donut. The décor had touches of Iris and her sense of whimsy — along with balloons shaped in the number 1-0-0, were stuffed animal faces of Mickey and Minnie Mouse.  They were prominently displayed near the guest of honor, giving the room a sense of playfulness and making one think about the long term relationship of Mickey and Minnie and how it mirrors that of Carl and Iris.

Iris will be 94 later this month. She and Carl have been married for over 60 years.  It was an honor to be there and, as always, an inspiration to be around the pair of them.


Lynne shopping with Iris in New York, Fall 2013.

Lynne Francis-Lunn is the director of merchandizing at PEM’s shop. She has a background in textiles and fine arts. Outside of work, she finds time for own artwork — weaving with paper using basketry techniques. She will soon attend the National Basketry Organization’s conference and workshop in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Iris Eye Bobs cutout & Me

Stacey J. Pappas, Museum Shop Manager, has been with PEM since 2000.  She visits New York often to shop for the museum store and loves the cultural exposure.  She lives in Salem and bikes to work. 


  1. Actually, I think he’s the Leo (July 21 to August 21) and she’s the Virgoan (August 22 to September 21), although it might seem the other way around fits better – superficially, though not astrologically speaking.

  2. Annie says:

    Just saw the movie Iris, WOW, you gotta go see it!! Iris and Carl are two of the most precious people! She is outrageous in the most wonderful ways!!!
    Annie/10 miles N. of the Golden Gate

  3. Anna Lee Landen says:

    Just saw “Iris” and fell in love with Iris and Carl. I have always loved fashion and Iris gave me permission (at age 70) to continue experimenting with my own style for as long as I long as I want to have fun with it. I don’t have to “dress my age”.

  4. Faith Allen says:

    I just saw the movie “Iris”, I loved it
    They all are such forward thinking older people. Just remarkable lives, Iris just keeps going, Totally fun documentary…..

  5. E porter says:

    How can Iris have a nephew?? I thought she was an oh child??

  6. Barbara says:

    Well… Perhaps Carl wasn’t an only child.

  7. Terri says:

    I love Iris’s style and her joie de vivre. The movie/documentary is excellent. And if you love “Iris” watch “Bill Cunningham New York.”

  8. Annie says:

    So enjoyed the movie about you, Iris, your devoted partner and husband, Carl, and your “dare to be different” style and attitude. You are inspiration to both men and women, and certainly for me. I shall never dress my age!!!

    And thank you for your generous contribution to the Met. I love visiting the Costume Institute Galleries.

    Keep creating, Iris!

  9. Lori says:

    Love,love,love Iris. Loved the movie about her life. Love her amazing,creative mind. Growing up in a small town as young teen, I felt closed, lost,and bored. I started expressing my creative talents through clothes. I became the person I am today, creative, confident and bold. thanks to my clothes!
    I had my own style that was “out there” like Iris. To this day I wear my own, unique and quirky wear that makes me come alive !! Thanks iris for being you!

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