Style Icons: Naty Abascal and Iris Apfel, two Grande Dames of Fashion

Elysze Held

In exclusive interviews, international fashion icons, Naty Abascal and Iris Apfel, talk to azureazure.com about elegance, luxury and the purest definition of style.

“Fashions fade, style is eternal.”  YVES SAINT LAURENT

I was fortunate to be in the company of two of the most distinguished style icons of our time—within the same week! Naty Abascal and Iris Apfel—women of a certain age, yet ageless, who exude a wide-ranging spectrum of pure glamour and style.

Naty has always exemplified refinement, sophistication and a feminine Spanish elegance while Iris is the epitome of a global personal style—colorful, vibrant and imaginative. Their commonality? Although both are world-famous style icons, they have always dressed for themselves; they have not ever been considered “trendy” nor do they dress to be considered “stylish”. And no surprise– Naty and Iris are both celebrated authors on the subject they know best—their own style.

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Left: Iris Apfel wearing Moschino. Right: Naty Abascal in Valentino.

Naty traveled to Miami recently to celebrate the launch of her new book, 100% Naty –her fan base was evident in the throngs of fabulously dressed women who came to meet her at Saks Fifth Avenue in Dadeland, as she has long been recognized as one of the most elegant women in the world. It came as no surprise to all guests that Naty, a Spanish socialite, and former fashion model known around the world as a muse to Valentino Garavani would arrive at her soiree radiating effortless glamour in a crème Valentino jacket and a crème Oscar de la Renta dress.

“My style has always been the same, simple, elegant, I buy what I like. The fashion shows now are like a circus, before it was so simple, so elegant–now if you dress simply elegant, you do not get your photo taken. Luxury has changed a lot—it is no longer just for the privileged few.” commented Naty Abascal. She has penned a manual of style whose directive is to create style fans and to instill an understanding of what luxury in fashion actually means fundamentally. Naty includes tips on style—“Try to buy the best leather accessories as good quality lasts forever” and “Bet on garments that combine with almost all the looks you have.” The prologue of her book 100% Naty was written by none other than the distinguished fashion designer Oscar de la Renta.

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Left: Iris Apfel dressed in Versace. Right: Naty Abascal with Elysze Held at Saks Fifth Avenue Dadeland.

With her celebrated “Midas touch,” Iris Apfel, known as the “Rare Bird of Fashion,” brings visionary talents to everything she is connected to. It would then make perfect sense that London’s Tate Modern, in producing their landmark Matisse show, would call upon the prolific and colorful Mrs. Apfel for her viewpoint on the artist’s final chapter –the Matisse series of spectacular cut-outs. The creative team from Tate Modern descended upon the visually stunning Palm Beach home of Iris and Carl Apfel to film Iris sharing her understanding of Matisse’s final artistic triumph, his process of “carving into color.”

“I was never aware until now how Matisse has influenced me unconsciously and how much of him I had soaked up. I seem to learn everything from osmosis and feel like a great big sponge when it comes to Mr. Matisse. Color is one of the most important things in the wide world. I cannot live without color… We have so much gray in the world today, we all need a little color. The tonality of all the colors of Matisse blends completely –what fashion people call color block. And Mr. Matisse certainly knows how to carve thru color,” says Iris.

As a fashion stylist, I was privileged to be invited to style Mrs. Apfel for the Tate Modern shoot. Pulling from her vintage wardrobe (Versace! Dior! Moschino!) and her collection of statement-worthy accessories was a trip to a museum in itself. Her visionary genius is evident in her wardrobe: each piece is an item or inspired by an item she has collected from around the world for over 75 years.

Both Naty and Iris are in agreement that fashion is not about age–it is about how you wear it. So I asked about their favorite designers.

“The real challenge for a woman is to find clothes and accessories that will endure the trends of fashion, so I do love Mr. De la Renta, I met him when I first came to the States, he is fantastic, he is so elegant, his clothes last forever. If you got something from Oscar in the 60’s, you can still wear it today!“ says Naty.

Iris: “I love to mix up everything and then hopefully my love binds it all together and it comes out right. I love especially what they all are now calling ‘vintage’. Clothes used to be made extraordinarily well, but now so many people are manufacturing in China– everyone except Ralph (Rucci), Naeem (Khan) and Duro Olowu. They continue to work one hundred percent in luxurious fabrics, and their collections are exquisitely made.”

These two remarkable and inexhaustible women have certainly earned the honor of the moniker style icon.  ■

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