A New Era of Wearables with Iris Apfel


She’s bold. She’s fierce. She’s the 94-year-old style icon who’s designing your next wearable. Meet Iris Apfel, the new face of WiseWear.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this feisty fashionista, you’ve probably come across her unforgettable face at some point – it’s often adorned with those iconic, thick-rimmed spectacles. Or you’ve probably heard someone mention her as “that lady with the glasses.” Perhaps you’ve seen her charming documentary IRIS (if you haven’t, it’s now being featured on Netflix).

For the past 60-something years, Iris has graced the world with her artistic talent and impeccable taste. Her career set off in 1950 when she and her husband launched Old World Weavers, a restorational textile company. Together they traveled the world, shopping for fabrics while simultaneously building Iris’ eccentric collection of one-of-a-kind accessories and fashion pieces. She also served as an interior designer for the White House for nearly half a century, working with the wives of nine presidents.


Iris, searching for fabrics for her clients, while discovering unique non-Western pieces.

Iris, fabric shopping for clients, while discovering unique non-Western pieces.


Iris and Carl in the

Iris with her husband, Carl, in the 1950s during their travels. 


Iris with her husband, Carl, at a gala dinner in Miami, 2008.

Iris and Carl, at a gala dinner in Miami, 2008.


Well affiliated with the New York interior design crowd, Iris eventually grabbed the attention of a curator from the Met Museum, who caught wind of her ostentatious wardrobe. He asked if she would create an art exhibition showcasing her personal collection of fashion and accessories accumulated throughout the years. It was this exhibition, dubbed Rara Avis: Selections from the Iris Apfel Collection, that set Iris apart as something very rare and far from ordinary. Today, she continues to inspire people of all ages to adopt their own unique style as the truest form of self-expression.


Iris installing an ensemble at Peabody Essex Museum, similar to the pieces displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Iris installing an ensemble at Peabody Essex Museum, similar to the pieces displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.


This is one of many reasons why we wanted to work with Iris. Her years of wisdom and wit make her the perfect example of a modern day woman – confident, beautiful, smart and independent. To put it in other words, she’s a true symbol for beauty and brains. If you’ve seen her documentary, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about.

In the documentary, you might also recall Iris touching on the frequent, sometimes fatal, issue of her friends falling. The self-proclaimed “geriatric starlet” has undergone two hip operations herself – one after tripping over the hem of an Oscar de la Renta dress at a Paris fashion shoot. This recurring topic of seniors at risk of falling was one that sparked an interest with Iris, as soon as she learned that our founder’s grandfather had experienced such a fatal fall (read about it in this Fast Company article).


Behind the scenes with Iris and WiseWear founder, Dr. Gerald Wilmink.

Behind the scenes with Iris and WiseWear founder, Dr. Gerald Wilmink.


His passing was what inspired Dr. Wilmink to start WiseWear. As stated in the article, Wilmink’s original plan was to create a hearing aid that could measure when the user was at risk of falling, and would react by telling the user to sit down. Although the hearing aid never came to fruition, one thing led to another – ultimately resulting in an antenna system that could transmit Bluetooth signals through metal. This is now the breakthrough technology that fuels our Socialite smart bracelets.

Although Socialite can’t detect falls (just yet), it can track your activity, provide vibrating mobile notifications, and send distress signals to your loved ones in times of potential danger. The unique safety feature is one that Iris values most, stating that, “something like this can alert those who care about me if I take a flop because falling can be very dangerous, particularly when you get old in age.”


Lavish and lovely: a shot from her latest documentary, IRIS, shot and directed by Albert Maysles.


By tapping the bracelet to your custom sequence (i.e. three taps), Socialite sends a discreet text message to your pre-approved list of contacts, notifying them of your exact location. Beyond falls, you can also tap the bracelet when feeling vulnerable, threatened, or endangered. Click here to read more about how the safety feature works.

During our one-on-one interview, Iris made a point that, “this is not just technology that’s useful for elderly people; there are a lot of young people that can benefit as well. The Socialite bracelet can measure your activity, how active you are, and all kinds of good stuff. We don’t want any couch potatoes in the crowd.”

At 94 years young, the slender muse is still always on-the-go, flying from international fashion shows to photo shoots and elite social events. She admits that she is very active and doesn’t sit still very much.


The Calder, from L to R: in Palladium, Rose Gold, and Gold.

The Calder, from L to R: in Palladium, Rose Gold, and Gold.


On another note, Iris also believes that the “de-teching” aspect of Socialite will serve useful, with vibrating mobile notifications and lack of a distracting LED screen. She once said, “People are so tied up in the worst parts of technology these days. They don’t use their imagination.

If we’ve learned one thing, it’s that imagination is vital to spark creativity and innovation. Iris has preserved a unique childlike quality to imagine a world of endless possibilities – and it’s unlike anything we’ve encountered before with any other fashion designer.

With Iris by our side, we’re feeling more inspired than ever to design a fresh line of luxury wearables and introduce it to the high-fashion world. Indeed, technology is a beautiful thing and wearing it should be too. Cheers to a new era of fashion-first wearables that truly speak style.