(CNN) --

Through her enormous black-framed glasses, Iris Apfel contemplated the world for more than a century with the confidence of a woman who rejected conventions and marked her own style.

Apfel died on Friday at the age of 102, according to a post on his verified Instagram page.

She died at her home in Palm Beach, Florida, Stu Loeser, his spokeswoman, told The New York Times.

The influential interior designer loved chunky accessories, jazz, work, and took advantage of every opportunity that came her way—from prestigious art exhibitions to magazine covers, a cosmetics line, a documentary, a modeling contract, and a Barbie doll made in her image.

"I do my best, I'm very passionate about what I do," Apfel told CNN in an interview in 2018. "I put my heart and soul (into things) and that fuels me. I push myself until I can't do it anymore and then "I come back for more. I'm a glutton for punishments."

Born Iris Barrel in Queens, New York, in 1921, she was the only child of Jewish parents Samuel and Sadye Barrel.


She described herself as a "black belt shopper," who made her first purchase at the age of 11, when her mother gave her $25 for a dress for Easter.

She cost US$12.95.

Her shoes and a matching hat cost about US$8. The round-trip train ride cost only US$0.10.

They were the years of the depression.

She was a bargain hunter, a collector, a hoarder.

In 2015, she told Vanity Fair that she was still wearing the dress she had worn on her first date with her late husband, Carl Apfel, some 68 years earlier.

He died in 2015, just days before his 101st birthday.

At the time, she described him as "a very generous and very funny man."

They married in 1948 and a few years later they founded Old World Weavers, a company that allowed the couple to indulge their passion for fabrics and travel.

They flew between continents in search of vintage textiles for client bookings that steadily expanded to include Estée Lauder, Greta Garbo, and no fewer than nine U.S. presidents.

Apfel was a celebrated interior designer for decades, and her famous personal style earned her numerous brand collaborations and a major modeling contract at the age of 97.

(Jemal Countess/WireImage/Getty Images)

"(Designing for the White House) was actually a relatively easy job, because everything had to be as humane as possible," Apfel told The Guardian in 2015.

That was until Jackie Kennedy moved there.

"He hired a very famous Parisian designer to decorate the house and convert it to a real French style, and the design community went crazy. After that we had to throw it all out and start again," Apfel said.

A lasting influence

Apfel never really retired (she once said that retirement was "a fate worse than death"), although her life was somewhat quieter in 2005 when she was approached by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to organize an exhibition of its accessories.

At the time she was in her early 80s and curator Harold Koda had heard that she had one of the best collections of costume jewelry in the United States.

Initially, Koda asked for accessories and jewelry and then five complete outfits, Apfel wrote in her book, "Accidental Icon: Musings from a Geriatric Scarlet."

But when Apfel, Koda and their Met museum staff finished exploring her labyrinthine wardrobe, cupboards and storage boxes, they left with 300 outfits and hundreds of accessories.

The exhibition, "Rara Avis"#, was the first in which the museum paid tribute to a living woman who was not a fashion designer. It was a success and Apfel was praised around the world as a style icon.

That caused his public profile to skyrocket.

Apfel in the front row of New York Fashion Week with model Karolina Kurkova, in 2016. (Michael Stewart/WireImage/Getty Images)

At 90, she was the face of a Kate Spade advertising campaign, created her own makeup line with MAC Cosmetics and designed her own range of accessories, clothing and furniture for the Home Shopping Network.

She had already appeared in fashion magazines such as Vogue Italia and Dazed & Confused when, in 2019, the prestigious IMG agency offered her a modeling contract at the age of 97, joining a circle of iconic models such as Karlie Kloss, Joan Smalls, Chrissy Teigen and Bella and Gigi Hadid.

He may have had his own brand, but Apfel wasn't motivated by designer names.

He was as happy rummaging through flea markets as he was into luxury stores looking for unusual pieces to pile on his small frame.

He had 2.9 million followers on Instagram, but expressed disdain for social media.

"It's too intrusive," he told CNN in 2018. "I don't give a damn what you ate and I don't care who you sleep with... It's a huge waste of time."

Apfel was once asked to define his attitude towards life in just three words.

"Just one trip," he said.

Then he added a few more: "It's better to live it."

CNN's Rob Frehse contributed to this report.