Photography by Bill Gentle
If you’ve lived in Palm Beach long enough—since the 1970s, to be precise—then you’ve probably spotted the Rare Bird of Fashion, aka Iris Apfel, in her natural habitat. A sartorial icon famous for her large eyewear, Apfel recently collaborated with the undergarment company Happy Socks as part of its Local Hero project, which seeks to spread happiness by working with creative individuals around the world. Happy Socks tapped Apfel to craft a collection of socks and men’s underwear that captures her vibrant personality. Here, Apfel chats with PBI about the collaboration and her own sense of style.
PBI: What is your top tip for coordinating your Happy Socks with an outfit?
Apfel: I don’t know that you have to coordinate because the thing I like about socks is that they can be shown brazenly or they can be hidden. There are a lot of people who want to express themselves but don’t have the guts to wear something far out. As a matter of fact, I [know] a gentleman who is about as conservative as you can get—he’s absolutely impeccable—and he wears Happy Socks. I think that’s a great thing. He can feel like he’s being conservative and a little bit wild but it doesn’t show—he knows it.
Do you view pairing socks with sandals as a fashion taboo?
I get very angry with fashion taboos. I think you can wear anything you please if it makes you happy. If other people don’t like it, it’s their problem, not yours.
You’re often described as the Rare Bird of Fashion. Do you have a spirit bird?
I never thought of having a spirit bird, but my logo at the Home Shopping Network is the owl. They call me the Rare Bird, and I think in a way the owl is a rare bird. I like the fact that he’s a night bird and I love that he doesn’t look like any other birds. He’s his own true bird.
How does living in Palm Beach influence your personal style?
I’ve been a resident of Palm Beach since the early ’70s [so] I’m no Johnny-come-lately. Whatever I experience influences me silently. I don’t dress differently, really, anywhere I go. I take myself with me.