"I dress the way I please and I do what I please."
Iris Apfel might be 95, but don’t think for a minute that the legendary interior designer and fashion icon has resigned herself to a quiet life. In fact, Apfel shows no sign of slowing down any time soon, thanks to the popular demand for her brand of unapologetically colorful and outrageous style.
The nonagenerian rose to fame in her eighties, calling herself the “world’s oldest living teenager,” thanks to her wild way of dressing and a feisty, no-nonsense attitude. Apfel’s trademark look (enormous round eyeglasses, clashing prints, bright colors, and a myriad of accessories) has made her a bona fide streetstyle star. It’s also landed her a retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2005, an Albert Maysles documentary titled Iris, and countless collaborations, including a personalized Emoji line and some seriously chic wearable tech.
The style idol, however, takes her fame in stride, staying grounded by the same principle that guides her aesthetic: she does what she pleases, irregardless of convention or what others think. In celebration of her latest collaboration, a line of zany footwear for Happy Socks, Apfel recently sat down with TIME to discuss her advice for staying vital, creativity, and why she doesn’t believe in rules.
TIME: When did you first become interested in fashion?
Iris Apfel: I guess I was always interested. As a child, my mother was very fashionable and I was always surrounded by design people, so I was interested I guess, when I came out of the womb.
What has your favorite project as a designer been?
Whatever I do at the moment is my favorite — I live very much in the now and I try to enjoy what I do. Of course, it was wonderful to work at the White House, but there were a lot of other good projects too.
You’ve become known as the world’s oldest living teenager, what are your tips for staying young?
I think you have to be interested, you’ve got to be with it, you’ve got to be aware of what’s going on, you’ve got to participate, you have to seek the company of younger people, see what they’re doing and thinking.
Do you have a favorite young person now?
What advice would you give your younger self?
Just keep on doing what you’re doing.
What’s the best part of getting older?
Well, I don’t have to worry how I look in a bikini anymore.
What’s the style mantra you live by?
I don’t live by style, I have a lot of other things to live by. I don’t have any mantras, I don’t have any rules, I dress the way I please and I do what I please and I do everything for my good. I don’t intellectualize it or make up rules and regulations.
Is there anything you don’t like about fashion right now?
I think people should be a little more appropriate. I think they should dress for the occasion. I don’t think they have to be dressed up all the time, but I think going to a dinner party in sweatpants and flip-flops is rather an affront to the hostess. I don’t think it’s a way to go see a show, it doesn’t show any respect to the people on stage. I mean, it’s perfectly fine if you want to be comfortable, but there are other ways of doing it.
How do you stay creatively inspired in your everyday life?
Just the fact that I can get up in the morning and navigate is very inspiring.
You’re known for your accessories; if you had to pick one accessory, what would it be?
Why do you fashion people always ask that question? I have several accessories, I couldn’t pick just one! It’s like asking me ‘Who is your favorite child?’