If you don’t learn constantly, you don’t grow and you will wither. Too many people wither on the vine.

Iris Apfel
If you don’t learn constantly, you don’t grow and you will wither. Too many people wither on the vine.

This week for our leadership quote, we pay tribute to the remarkable Iris Apfel, an iconic figure in the worlds of fashion, business, and interior design, who passed away recently. Iris was not just known for her unique and vibrant style but also her wisdom and wit, leaving us with many memorable quotes that resonate far beyond the realms of design and fashion. One such pearl of wisdom encapsulates the essence of lifelong learning and growth:

Iris Apfel: "If you don’t learn constantly, you don’t grow and you will wither. Too many people wither on the vine."

In these few words, Iris Apfel conveys a powerful message that is at the heart of leadership and personal development. In celebrating Apfel's legacy, we also draw inspiration from our recent Leadership Lab interview with Rose Patten who emphasised a growth mindset and the power of constant reinvention in leadership. 

Education and Early Career

Iris Apfel, born on August 29, 1921, in Astoria, Queens, New York, embarked on a journey that would see her become an indelible figure in fashion and design. Her education at New York University and the University of Wisconsin art history laid the groundwork for a career that defied conventions. Together with her husband Carl Apfel, she founded Old World Weavers in 1950, embarking on a journey of interior design that spanned decades, even working on restoration projects at the White House for nine presidents.

A Paradigm of Authenticity and Innovation

Apfel's approach to fashion and living was revolutionary. She championed authenticity, creativity, and boldness, becoming known for her eclectic style and vibrant personality. Beyond her sartorial choices, Apfel was a visionary, blending her business acumen with her unique aesthetic to create a brand that was unmistakably hers. Her contributions extended into the realms of museum exhibits, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art's "Rara Avis" in 2005, and partnerships with global brands, showcasing her ability to remain relevant and influential across different generations.

Reflecting on Apfel's Legacy of Growth

Iris Apfel's life and words remind us of the importance of perpetual learning and the joy of curiosity. As leaders, her journey encourages us to embrace our individuality, seek continuous development, and foster environments where growth and innovation flourish. It's a reminder that the quest for knowledge and the pursuit of learning is not merely academic endeavors but are essential to our growth, vitality, and ability to lead effectively.

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Go to the profile of Susanna Kempe
about 2 months ago

I met Iris Apfel in New York at the Global Fashion Awards in 2010 when she won Style Icon of the year.  She was dazzlingly charming and unique, radiating a completely inspiring energy and zest for life. I cannot think of a better exemplar of the power of a growth mindset and being true to oneself. The world is a little duller today without her in it, but another star shines brightly in the sky. RIP Iris. 

Go to the profile of Susanna Kempe
about 1 month ago

@Amanda Flanagan - Iris Apfel proved that age is not something to apologise for!

Go to the profile of Amanda Flanagan
about 1 month ago

Absolutely@Susanna Kempe and we know how remarkable she was! 
What a fantastic two days in London learning from and supporting other remarkable woman. Thank you all so much. 🫶🏽