Iris Apfel popped-up out of nowhere and instantly became a face everybody recognised with a name that nobody had heard of. You’ve probably seen Apfel’s mush on the telly (mainly in advertisement campaigns) but I bet most of you don’t know (or care) what she did or why she’s famous. Iris Apfel was born to two design-based business owners; her father an owner of a glass and mirror business and her mother owner of a fashion boutique. Iris became an interior designer and owner of a textile firm and she’s taken part in high-profile design projects including tarting-up the White House for nine presidents; Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton. Whoop-de-fucking-doo.
According to her Wikipedia page, Iris (along with her husband) “began travelling all over the world where she began buying pieces of non-Western, artisanal clothes. She wore these clothes to clients’ high-society parties”. Great, so she’s basically a cultural-appropriating, gentrifying, politically-connected, benefit-er of nepotism. If she wasn’t both old and a woman, her resume would be looked upon with either apathy or disdain but these days, in a superficially anti-ageist and anti-sexist world, anyone who is some sort of minority is lauded without considering their history.
In case you hadn’t noticed, multinational companies love to come across as if they’re alternative, liberal, or even political; almost half of adverts these days have a pretence of being “down with the people”. How great then, that companies such as Unilever utilise Iris Apfel’s fake credentials to sell more of their products. In their shite Magnum ad featuring Hip-Hop vinyl scratches (oh, how cool and relevant) Apfel reads her Will (because being morbid apparently sells ice creams). Iris at one point declares that she’s going to give painters her colours (because she somehow owns them). Here’s the advert for you to enjoy… not. After watching it, please let me know how the lines “never stop being authentic”, “you’re not risking, you’re not living”, and “be true to yourself” apply to either a businesswoman who “borrowed” ethnic designs or the maker of overpriced choc-ices on a stick…
Iris Apfel has been marketing herself to death in recent years, and she is often used to convey some hollow sense of artistry, anti-ageism, and Feminism to people who couldn’t give a toss about either cause. Iris has put her face to car manufacturer Citroën and oh yes, an Iris Apfel Barbie was released around the time Mattel decided they were no longer sexist, body-dysmorphic, and racist. Instead of shunning these companies (who let’s face it, haven’t done anything for either women or old women) Apfel came running, to add her meaningless face to yet another meaningless product. So go ahead, buy all the crap these big businesses tell you to, because the old lady who helped zhoosh-up the surroundings for racist war-mongers Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon said so.
Open Your Iris.