The Iris Touch

Fabricut partners with centenarian icon Iris Apfel for a collection imbued with her ebullient style
A stylish woman of a certain age in an eclectic setting with multiple items and wearing shades of turquoise from head to toe.

Above Image: High-style force of nature Iris Apfel, who celebrated her 100th birthday in August of this year. Photo by Ruven Afanador for Zenni.

By Maile Pingel

When a family connection serendipitously brought Iris Apfel into textile house Fabricut’s orbit, the company didn’t hesitate to propose a collaboration: the result, Maximal Couture, is an exuberant collection of fabrics and trims that meld classic design motifs with Apfel’s unerring eye for color—and fun. The creative journey began in New York City, where Apfel and Millie Hammond, design director at Fabricut, met for a preliminary meeting. “It was like a big bazaar,” Hammond recalls. “I brought magazine tear sheets and things I thought she would like, and she brought things she’d collected: garments, historical textiles, pictures of her home.”

A collection of items on a table in colorful array of patterns and textures.

A study in chic: Tabletop fabric is Bazaar in Ocean from the Maximal Couture collection. Photo courtesy of Fabricut.

The collection born of that first meeting—a forum made all the more important when lockdown subsequently limited them to Zoom calls—comprises twenty fabrics and seven trims blending fashion and historical decoration. “Iris showed us a caftan with a beautiful tulip suzani,” Hammond shares. From there the team explored other motifs, including a flame stitch (a zigzag weave also known as bargello or point d’Hongrie), a classic paisley (albeit one with amped-up swirl power), and a dragonfly-like bug. “I’d seen the pineapple on the cover of her book, Accidental Icon, but she said, ‘No more pineapples,’ so we went through her collections and she liked the idea of a bug.” Arthropods, in fact, hold a special place in the decorative arts, perhaps most famously the bee, which Napoleon chose as the emblem of his emperorship.

A painting of the subject next to a set of inset shelves with decorative items and images.

Hammond and Apfel understood that historical textiles were merely a jumping-off point, and that they had to design for today. “Iris would say something like, ‘I’m fond of moiré prints,’ but that technique isn’t used now, so we found a hammered satin instead.” The resulting design, a floral trellis given an edgy blurred effect, more than pleased Apfel, who counts it among her favorites. There are animal prints, too, as well as nubby wovens, stripes, ikats, Art Deco–inspired geometrics, and solids in hues like chartreuse, emerald, and coral. The trims, too, exude Apfel’s aesthetic, from plush embroideries and velvets to a jewelry-like band of shimmering metallic poppies.

A collection of items and patterns.

Inspired living: Rose Floral wallcovering in Chartreuse; drape in Fil Coupe Floral in Lemon. Photo courtesy of Fabricut.

Few can match Apfel’s trailblazing dynamism, and with Maximal Couture fans can now channel a little of her energy into their homes. “She just has such an expressive way about her,” says Hammond, adding, “Don’t we all want to be Iris?”

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