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Iris Apfel on Being a Fashion Maverick & Designing Happy Socks

Vamp, that’s a sexy name,” quipped Iris Apfel at the American Apparel & Footwear Association’s (AAFA) 38th Annual American Image Awards in New York City on Tuesday.

The 94-year-old fashion icon and cover girl was honored with AAFA’s Fashion Maverick award, alongside Company of the Year BBC International LLC, Person of the Year Joseph Abboud, Retailer of the Year Shinola Detroit and Designer of the Year Christian Siriano.

For a second consecutive year, the awards benefited Mercy Ships, operator of the largest non-governmental hospital ship that provides free lifesaving surgeries for people where medical care is nearly non-existent.

Often called a “rare bird”, Apfel spoke of her journey from interior decorator to fashion maverick, “People have been asking me all evening about this maverick award. First of all, I was never aware that I was a maverick. I just do what I feel like doing… and now I’m being awarded for it.”

Despite being the subject of the 2014 fashion documentary, Iris, and her recent collaboration with wearable tech brand WiseWear and her starring role in Kate Spade’s Spring ’16 campaign, Apfel said her life as a “geriatric starlet” continues to be surprising.

She told the crowd, “All come to pass because of wonderful people like you guys I met along the way and because I took a few chances and tried to be myself and live in my own image and do what made me happy without upsetting my husband or making my mother embarrassed.”

During the awards ceremony, emcee Hal Rubinstein revealed Apfel is working with Harper Collins on a book about personal style. Apfel also shared that she’s collaborating with Happy Socks, a division of United Legwear and Apparel, on a range of hosiery and underwear. Isaac Ash, the company’s founder and CEO, donated $100,000 to Mercy Ships, in Apfel’s name.

Apfel added, “I have the good fortune of being able to work for Issac and his merry little brand, Happy socks. I think they are just wonderful.”

AAFA President and CEO Rick Helfenbein said the association was “overwhelmed” by the donation and added, “At the heart of the American Image Awards is our ability to honor our incredible industry, while giving back to a charity partner that will somehow make the world just a little bit better.”

Other highlights of the evening included an inside look at Shinola Detroit by Shinola’s President Jacques Panis and a round of enthusiastic applause for Robert Campbell from BBC International, who took to the stage and was recognized for immense contributions to the footwear industry.