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95-year-old fashion icon Iris Apfel says hard work is her fountain of youth

Iris Apfel
Source: INC International Concepts
Iris Apfel

Iris Apfel's life is colorful, but the 95-year-old fashion diva says it's hard work that keeps her going.

"I just I love what I do. I work very hard. I think hard work is my medicine, my salvation," Apfel says at the launch of her partnership with the Macy's brand INC International Concepts, called "Iris Meets INC," in New York City earlier this week.

The line features bold colors, prints and oversized jewelry, signature trademarks of Apfel's style.

"I advise everybody to love what they do and work hard at it," she says.

Early in her career, Apfel and her late husband Carl owned and operated a textile business, Old World Weavers, which took her all over the world in search of intriguing, artisanal fabrics. She also worked on interior and restoration design projects for nine U.S. presidents at the White House.

Since she and her husband retired from their textile business, Apfel has remained active in launching partnerships with brands, like the one with Macy's, and being featured in advertisements.

For example, Apfel is the cover girl for a new ad campaign of the Australian fashion brand, Blue Illusion. She also has starred in a documentary about her life produced by Albert Maysles, called "Iris," and an exhibit about her style at The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute called "Rara Avis: Selections from the Iris Barrel Apfel Collection."

Apfel has built a personal brand with a cult-like following and impressive retail power, and she worked hard to build her empire.

Saint Louis Fund 2015 Honoree Iris Apfel accepts her award during the Saint Louis Fashion Fund Gala 2015 on November 4, 2015 in St Louis, Missouri.
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Saint Louis Fund 2015 Honoree Iris Apfel accepts her award during the Saint Louis Fashion Fund Gala 2015 on November 4, 2015 in St Louis, Missouri.

"There's always a way," says Apfel. "There is always a way for anything. Period. If you want something badly enough and you work hard at it, you achieve it. I absolutely guarantee it."

If there's anything the near centenarian won't stand for, it's a sense of entitlement.

"The young people today don't want to apprentice; they don't want to start at the bottom; they don't want to learn anything. They just all want the red carpet and the corner office," says Apfel. "I find it appalling. They think they are a generation of button pressers. They think a device is their life blood. All they do is press a button and get an answer."

And, adds Apfel, anything that comes easily isn't really worth having anyway.

"The day I grew up was the day I realized there is no free lunch," she says. "You pay for everything — not only in money — but you pay with time, with experience, with love, with pain, you pay some way. You don't get away free. If you do, you get something for nothing, and it's worth nothing."