Iris Apfel

Interiors Sector Embraces Its Influencer Age

Interiors Sector Embraces Its Influencer Age

MILAN — In a lot of ways, design weeks from Milan to New York are starting to look a lot like fashion week.
The influencers stand out, dressed to the hilt, and the photographers are waiting to capture them sipping on an espresso with a Kartell chair in the background, or catching an old tram outside of an installation. In Copenhagen, social celebs aren’t looking for any clicks or likes — they are interwoven among the crowd, soaking up the sun, riding their bikes around the harbor, dressed on the DL and emitting Hygge vibes the Scandy way. 

At the same time, the broader design industry — including interiors and home — is still trying to figure out what sort of influencers make their sofas and tableware appear cool to a global public. 

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According to data insights firm Launchmetrics, American firms are ahead of the game and already have accrued some serious media impact value. Crate & Barrel’s collaboration with interior designer and founder of @eyeswoon, Athena Calderone, has garnered a total MIV of $2.4 million since the middle of September. About 39 percent of the total amount (or $939,000) comes directly from Athena’s IGaccount, which only has about 10,000 followers. The brand’s Owned Voice has garnered $476,000 in MIV from placements mentioning the partnership.

Ruggable, famous for its easy wash and dry floor coverings, generated $1.1 million in MIV through its collaboration with Iris Apfel for a colorful design-forward collection that mirrors the fashion icon’s taste. Apfel herself was responsible for 30 percent of the total amount generated. 

The partnership with Apfel was rooted in their collaboration, not necessarily because her image generates buzz, Ruggable’s founder Jeneva Bell told WWD. 

“I have personally admired Iris. Her incredible career has enabled her to become a global icon in design and fashion. She also represents and encourages others to truly show off their own personal style and break the boundaries, something we always want to inspire at Ruggable,” Bell said. 

In Italy, public relations firm founder Luisa Bertoldo ditched the office space, and saw her brand relationships evolve in a natural way, while she focused on her own talents, which resulted in her lifestyle brand Bagni Luisa, her ceramics line Esperia and, yes, also influencing.

“When I had my PR firm, I started experimenting with social media on the side. Posting the products on my own Instagram and saw that those numbers were much higher than when the firm posted them,” she said while sipping tea at the bohemian chic home she shares with her partner, actor Francesco Mandelli, and daughter Giovanna.

A Corinthian column separates her modular kitchen by Very Simple Kitchen with a modern dark wood set of cabinets she had made bespoke by a local carpenter. Together, the family interacts with the products, making Montecristo sandwiches on their marble counter, with their Smeg appliances to Supergrass’ “Alright” and wearing Hawaiian spooners, with natural nonchalance.

Bertoldo knows how to make appliances and decor look appealing by homing in on the pleasures of daily life. She achieves this same message by smoothing Avene creams across her makeup-less face and completing art projects with her daughter.

Luisa Bertoldo in the kitchen with her partner, actor Francesco Mandelli and daughter Giovanna.

Courtesy of Luisa Bertoldo

Not all leading firms are concerned with turning “likes” into euros, however. A few leading lighting and furniture companies contacted said they actually don’t have an influencer strategy yet but are working on one. “We prefer not to comment on this subject right now, just because we are currently working to finalize our definitive strategy with proper guidelines worldwide,” was the answer. 

Albeit late in the game compared to its fashion peers, the furnishings and lighting industry is only now rising to the the digital occasion and selling its goods online. For some companies, the faces tapped to represent the brand via social media channels not only have to have exquisite taste and an enviable lifestyle, but they also need to possess their own set of talents.

“[Influencers] must have a lifestyle which resonates with our followers’ interests. An international and possibly well-traveled life (occasionally touching base at luxury hotels supplied by Frette) a discerning taste for timeless, investment pieces and great attention to quality, design and craftsmanship,” Frette said in an emailed statement.

Frette, founded in Brianza, Italy, in 1860, unfurled a capsule collection of 100 percent organic cotton sheets, utilizing a chemical-free dyeing process that employs dried poppy petals, in April during Design Week and turned to artist and influencer Jenny Walton, whose retro chic allure has led to paid partnership deals with Net-a-porter and Tory Burch.

Frette sustainable linens debuted during Milan’s Design Week. The new sustainable campaign features artist and influencer Jenny Walton.

Frette Courtesy Photo

Fashion week regular Paolo Stella started to cross the Rubicon between design and fashion during COVID-19. He had the epiphany during lockdown one morning just after dawn, he explained, sitting in his “bow-window” armchair designed by Gaetano Pesce, sipping on his coffee while listening to classical music. While Stella’s flair for storytelling is hard to ignore, so is his business sense. 

“The percentage concerns the quantity of influencers involved in this sector. The answer is, very few. So I can take much larger market slices than those of fashion, a sector in which thousands of competitors work.”

Today, Stella works with some of the finest names in Italian furnishing: De Padova, Boffi, B&B Italia and Cassina. 

The relentless fashion schedule, he explained, is also taking its toll. “Design is more human in terms of time and does not run like fashion between seasons where you have cruise collections and new collections that come out practically every week. You can still enjoy the weather,” he reflected, noting that he often finds himself enthusing over designs that were developed up to 70 years ago.

Still, he hopes to break the mold when it comes to the influencer-brand business model and go beyond posts for pay. “I hope with the quality of my projects, getting out of that demeaning dynamic that leads to the basic axiom ‘you give me an object and I’ll write you a post.’ In my case, the project always tells a story, a brand, a great architect.”

Paolo Stella sits on the “bow-window” armchair designed by Gaetano Pesce.

Courtesy of Paolo Stella

In and around Copenhagen, the northern pulse of the design world, Danish firms have their own views about how they should interact with social media. 

Louis Poulsen made headlines by collaborating with fashion models turned glass artists Breanna Box and Peter Dupont of Home in Heven. The result was an unexpected capsule of naughty and nice lamps with horns and tentacles. It was a subtle, but direct link to fashion and the buzz the industry has the potential to create for one of the best-known and most traditional lighting firms in the world through craft and working collaborations.

At the Audo, the home of Audo Copenhagen, the newly formed brand combining By Lassen and Menu, renowned American interior stylist Colin King has designed an installation with New York-based Field Studies Flora design studio founder Alex Crowder. King has a talent and acumen for design, working with his hands, but also has the secret sauce when it comes to building a fan base. 

Colin King and Alex Crowder before their “Fence” project that debuted at the Audo during 3daysofdesign.

“We did a collaboration with Colin King and centered it around art pieces that he found. They [accessories] are reasonable to buy into as well,” said Audo Copenhagen design and brand director Joachim Kornbek Engell-Hansen. Engell-Hansen explained the aim is to reach consumers with a universe and a broad range of products on social media, particularly Instagram.

For other brands, authenticity is key. Trine Andersen, founder of Ferm Living, said the company is quite selective about who it works with. “Whether it’s an artist or designer for a product collaboration or an influencer or ambassador to communicate the brand, we look for people we find inspiring, who are authentic and creative, and who want to have a dialogue about what home means to them,” she said.

According to Andersen, sometimes less is more in the world of home and interiors. It’s more about welcoming customers by conjuring a sense of comfort and well-being rather than creating a buzz around the product.

“Our biggest ambition is, and always has been, to inspire people to create the kind of space that makes them feel comfortable and allows them to be themselves in their own home, and it is of great importance to us that we share that vision with the people we work with.”

Iris Apfel Turns 100: 10 Unforgettable Quotes of Wisdom from the Style Icon

Iris Apfel Turns 100: 10 Unforgettable Quotes of Wisdom from the Style Icon

Photo: Instagram/@irisapfel
American fashion icon Iris Apfel is one of the industry’s oldest tastemakers. A self-appointed “geriatric starlet”, this New York-based personality is the living embodiment of age is just a number. After founding an international fabric manufacturing company with her late husband in the 50s, Apfel’s penchant for style quickly became world-renowned. Nine US presidents welcomed her on board as the interior designer for one of the most famous houses in the world, working with everyone from the Kennedys to the Clintons and earning her the nickname “First Lady of Fabric.” The subject of a featured Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibit, curator of an acclaimed Bergdorf Goodman collection, star of an Emmy-nominated documentary, and MAC Cosmetics cover girl at the age of 90, Apfel’s claim she is an “accidental icon” is no match for her diverse and unparalleled success in the creative community for more than seven decades.
With an Instagram bio exclaiming that “more is more & less is a bore,” it should come as no surprise that Apfel is a master of bold and eclectic sartorial choices. Her signature oversized glasses are often paired with vibrant hues and layers of chunky jewelry, mirroring her flair for the flamboyant in a unique sense of style that is wholly her own. As a firm believer in individuality, Apfel’s daring charisma shines through in not only her wardrobe but also her words, exuding a no-nonsense—almost blunt—attitude crafted from an admirable sense of self-confidence.
To celebrate the style entrepreneur’s milestone 100th birthday today, August 29, scroll through the gallery below for a look at Apfel’s most memorable fashion moments and candid words of wisdom we would all do well to remember.

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Why it’s Showtime for Big, Bold, and Very Brilliant Costume Jewelry

Why it’s Showtime for Big, Bold, and Very Brilliant Costume Jewelry

It’s showtime, as the spotlight lands on big, bold, and very brilliant costume jewelry.
Yasmine Sabri wears earrings, Oscar De La Renta
When Lady Gaga performed the US National Anthem at President Biden’s inauguration, her dreams for her country’s future sang out loud and clear. ­That message was delivered not so much in her words as in the gilded dove of peace pinned to her gown. With a customary olive branch in its beak, this sculptural, golden bird captured the spirit of the moment, reflecting how the pop star – and many of those watching – were looking forward to a period of healing for a divided nation.
Lady Gaga at the 2021 US Presidential inauguration. Photo: Getty Images
­The brooch was designed for the occasion by Daniel Roseberry, the American-born artistic director of Schiaparelli, a couture house that has dealt in drama since its founder, Elsa Schiaparelli, first delighted Paris with her fantastical, surrealist creations in the 1920s. “Jewelry is there to heighten the fantasy of haute couture
“You wouldn’t be able to wear or afford something that big if it were made in real gold,” says jewelry historian and author Vivienne Becker of Gaga’s brooch. Becker, who has always had a soft spot for costume – or haute couture, as fans prefer to call it – jewelry, notes how fitting it is that such a piece should define a day representing peace and democracy. “It’s not about wealth or status, it’s a wholly democratic art form,” she explains. ­ The likes of Schiaparelli may have popularized costume jewelry in pre-war Europe, but it was in America during the 1950s, Becker says, where it truly boomed, as women entered the workforce and began to want inexpensive versions of the jewels hitherto worn only by the rich and famous.
Iris Apfel. Photo: Getty Images
Such appeal has yet to fade. Take, for instance, the omnipresence of costume pieces in the brilliant wardrobe of nonagenarian style icon Iris Apfel. “­ There’s so much joy in wearing costume jewelry,” says Giovanna Engelbert, global creative director at Swarovski. “It’s not a display of wealth but an expression of who you are. It can be chic and bold, or effortless and relaxed, depending on how you’re feeling,” she explains over Zoom, bedecked in multiple necklaces and kaleidoscopic crystal bracelets from her debut collection Wonderlab. “You might be dressed casually, but you can just throw on some jewelry to be more out there,” she laughs.
Ring, Swarovski
Necklace, Panconesi
Also pushing the boundaries of costume jewelry is Marco Panconesi, who designs his own line alongside collections for Fendi and Fenty. He says, “I’m constantly in conversation with jewelry history in my research. I integrate old techniques and apply them to contemporary fashion.” Panconesi’s latest work is inspired by the exuberance of his garden in Morocco, where he lived during last spring’s lockdown. He took the complex 18th century technique of en tremblant, in which diamonds were set on tiny springs to quiver with the wearer’s every move, and transferred it to semi- and non-precious gems of his own creation. Reflecting the wild colors and textures of Moroccan flora, these hybrid gems sparkle from dramatic, oversized ear cuffs and necklaces. He says, “It’s not about cut, color or the number of carats. It’s a metamorphosis whereby even humble materials take on an emotional value that can be enjoyed by the wearer and the onlooker.” Costume jewelry is also an important chance to convey brand DNA. Take, for instance, the giant, interlocking Gs of Matthew M Williams’s gender-neutral chains at Givenchy, or Simone Rocha’s constant reinterpretations of the pearl in chandelier earrings, hairnets, and dress trims.
Earrings, Giorgio Armani
For Maria Sole Ferragamo, scion of the Italian luxury accessories dynasty, costume jewelry is also a way to be more eco-conscious, although she is careful not to describe her brand, SO-LE Studio, as sustainable. “Sustainability should be taken for granted at this point,” she says. Her collections are made in small, exclusive quantities, owing to the limited supply of offcuts she uses, and combine architectural form with featherlight repurposed leather. “I want to use beautiful materials that are already there, it’s a creative stimulus to me,” she explains. “We don’t need all this stuff. We do need beauty, so that’s what I strive to create.” Currently, the pleasure derived from beauty and the escapism provided by limitless imagination feel particularly poignant. As Schiaparelli said, “In difficult times, fashion is always outrageous.”
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Originally published in the April 2021 issue of Vogue Arabia

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