Fashion Maven Iris Apfel Honored by the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens

Those iconic glasses set the tone for a formal celebration of Iris Apfel’s birthday at Café L’Europe on Friday, December 14. From the hand-delivered party invitation adorned with bedazzled specs, to the birthday cake toast with the sold-out crowd of 100 guests sporting copycat glasses and feather boas, “An Evening with Iris Apfel: Celebrating a Geriatric Starlet” honored the local artist, bold businesswoman and global fashion icon in a benefit event for the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens.


Chaired by Christine Alyward and Co-chaired by Frances Fisher and Sally Soter, the evening began with a cocktail reception with passed hors d’oeuvres and cocktails. Apfel, always one step ahead in the fashion world, greeted her admirers and made quite the entrance, wearing a custom designed dress adorned with her image on the skirt. Apfel’s documentary, entitled Iris, played on TV screens and life-size cutouts decorated the reception area.

“We are here this evening to celebrate the one-of-a-kind Iris Apfel,” said Frances Fisher, event Co-Chair and Board Chairman for the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens. “Tonight marks a truly memorable occasion to honor Iris as an artist, a visionary, a successful business woman and a fashion icon that has won the world over. Iris, the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens is tremendously grateful and excited to share this special evening with you.  You said ‘It’s not the years in your life that count it’s the life in your years that matter.’ That rings so true tonight as we celebrate this milestone 97th birthday with you. Congratulations!”


Sally Soter thanked the sponsors who made the evening possible including Caler, Donten, Levine, Cohen, Porter & Veil, P.A.; Wilmington Trust and Modern Luxury Palm Beach. Christine Alyward, a friend of Apfel’s for 17 years, shared a few stories of her friendship with Iris and thanked her and the guests for being there.


The black-tie dinner began with Scottish smoked salmon with caviar and the entrée choices were cappelacci trasteverina pasta envelopes filled with spinach and ricotta cheese, Holland dover sole meuniere or roasted rack of mustard crusted Colorado lamb. The decadent meal concluded with a trio of Iris’ fashionable dessert creations. The floral table centerpieces included Iris Apfel inspired Barbie dolls, with clothing that was designed by the artist herself.   


In attendance were such notables as Tommy Hilfiger and Dee Ocleppo, Frances and Jeff Fisher, Bill and Christine Aylward, George and Susan Cohon, Pam and Ted Rauch, Nancy Brinker, Marsha Blackburn, Susie and Ed Elson, James Borynack and Adolfo Zaralegui, Doug and Dale Anderson, Annie and Michael Falk, Becky and David Gochman, Michael Atmore and Paul Mesher, Christina and Ben MacFarland, Caroline and Nick Rafferty, Martha and Richard Glasser, Joel and Irene Levine, Diane and Clyde McNeal, Kit Pannill and Tyler Cain, David Miller and Ray Wakefield, Jay and Patrick Rickel-Finnegan, Cynthia and Dennis Kanai and Natalie Alvarez and Tony Lourido.

Before the birthday cake celebration, Tommy Hilfiger and his wife, Dee Ocleppo, presented Apfel with a limited-edition Judith Leiber unicorn purse. As the cake was presented, all guests put on their Iris Apfel iconic glasses and feather boas to toast one of the most dynamic personalities in the world of fashion, textiles and interior design. As guests left for the evening, they received a copy of Apfel’s book, Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon, as well as an Iris Apfel inspired pen with her signature glasses.

The Gardens will continue its celebration with a book signing and pop up shop with Iris Apfel on Saturday, December 22, 2018, from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. During the afternoon, guests will be able to purchase copies of Accidental Icon and have them signed by Apfel herself. In addition, Iris Apfel inspired Barbie dolls, with a line of clothing designed by Apfel, will make their debut at the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens. Iris Apfel inspired t-shirts, notepads and mugs will also be for sale. The Gardens will have discounted admission that day; $10 for non-member adults, $5 for seniors (age 65 and older), $5 for students and ANSG members and children under five are free.

The Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens, Inc. is a non-profit foundation established in 1977 by resident sculptor Ann Weaver Norton (1905-1982). An urban sanctuary of almost two acres, the compound comprises Norton’s historic house with exhibition galleries, her studio, monumental sculptures and tropical gardens of rare palms and cycads.

Located at 253 Barcelona Road in the historic El Cid neighborhood of West Palm Beach, the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Gallery and garden exhibition talks are available on Wednesdays at 11 a.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. The Gardens are also available for private events and are closed on major holidays. For membership or general information, please visit or call 561-832-5328.