The world lost a fashion icon last night. Zela Kaplan died as she lived: enjoying the nightlife and being part of the fashion community. She was in the front row of a Joanna Mastroianni fashion show when she passed away. She was 95.
I never met Ms. Kaplan, but I’d seen photos of her and read about her in The Village Voice and Advanced Style. I loved her attitude and Chutzpah. I valued that she enjoyed living life to the fullest and having fun, but that she was also caring and concerned for others.
She travelled the world and was an outspoken advocate of human rights. She fought against female genital mutilation in Africa and Southeast Asia and helped educate women about birth control.
On trips abroad, Ms. Kaplan would pick up fabrics and bring them home. She designed her own clothes and was often seen around New York in tunics and hats with African prints. She slept in until mid-afternoon and was out all night. She was a regular and favorite at many exclusive nightclubs. She was always welcomed past the velvet ropes where she would rub elbows with designers and celebrities.
Most often though, she was treated as a celebrity. People wanted to be near her. She had a lust for life and an energy that people a quarter of her age couldn’t match. A lover of arts and fashion she squeezed several lives into her 95 years. She was a professional golfer and a ballroom dancer before she became the world’s oldest club kid.
She proved age is just a number and that you’re only as old as you feel. She had a life well-lived and will be missed.