Iris Apfel: A Lesson in Statement Frames

Perhaps no glasses are more iconic than Iris Apfel’s – when it comes to style, more is more in her eyes. You may not know her name, but you’d recognize her anywhere — the 99-year-old renowned interior designer (she worked for the White House for many years) and world-famous style icon is known for her signature red lipstick, bold prints and textures, and most importantly, her larger-than-life frames. 

Her passion for boldness started at a young age, when she would visit her grandmother and gawk at the scraps of fabric left over from sewing projects. She’d spend hours exploring the different colours and textures, and if she was good that day, she was allowed to take six pieces home. Her obsession with eyewear started in much the same way — collecting over-the-top, eccentric frames, even before she needed them, and storing them in a shoebox. “I loved looking for junk at flea markets since I was a kid. And for some reason, unusual spectacle frames have always fascinated me,” she writes in her memoir Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon

When the time finally came for her to start needing glasses, Iris simply chose the biggest frames from her collection and had lenses put into them. Ever since then, round frames with a thick black rim have become synonymous with her name. As she writes in her book, “If I’m going to have to wear glasses, I might as well have GLASSES.”

Living by the motto, “More is more and less is a bore,” Iris’s dedication to breaking fashion rules by playing with colour, textures and accessories has solidified her status as a style icon. So much so that she was the subject of a popular exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2005 — big frames included.

Her style is her own, and very few are brave enough to get on her level, but drawing inspiration from this world-renowned maximalist can be as simple as making a statement with your eyewear. Whether you’re looking to turn heads with larger-than-life frames, or simply want glasses that brighten up any outfit, here are a few Iris-inspired frames that are sure to transform your look:


Round with a pop of colour – Ray Ban RB5380

Pretty in pink – Michael Kors MK 3032

Textured tortoise – Prada PR 11RV

All about the angles – Dolce & Gabbana DG 5025

Bold and black –Michael Kors MK 2102