When Iris Apfel first met Duro Olowu in 2005, she was decked out in Mickey Mouse pajamas and laden with jewelry, and he had just bagged the award for New Designer of the Year at the British Fashion Awards. The long-standing friends recently met up for a stroll through London Zoo, an encounter filmed by Leigh Johnson.
After a brief post-university spell at Women’s Wear Daily, native New Yorker Apfel began a career in interior design in the early 1950s, starting a textile company with her husband Carl, which enabled her to indulge her peripatetic urges, especially in regards to collecting. She continues to be a muse for Jimmy Choo, MAC cosmetics, and Albert Maysles, and her trademark more-is-more style has been honored in a celebratory exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “We have a very similar aesthetic for international fabric — a sort of curatorial eye for it but in a fun way,” explains Nigerian-born Olowu. “We don’t like precious things and our philosophy is when in doubt, just add something else.”
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Olowu, who trained and practiced as a lawyer before launching his eponymous label in October 2004, collaborated with the perennial magpie this year by having her design bags and jewelry to accompany his capsule collection for JCPenney. “She and her husband Carl are like my second parents,” says Olowu. “Of course she loves fashion and I’m in the fashion business, but it’s not based on that. It’s just that I respect them, I like them and anyway I’ve always been a sucker for a 90-year-old broad.”