DIGITAL DRESSING IRIS VAN HERPEN IS CREATING A NEW DIRECTION FOR COUTURE FASHION. Written by NORA ELIZABETH SOFIA GILLIGAN It has been said that fashion repeats and recycles itself, everevolving but rarely new. The recent collaboration between Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen, architects Daniel Widrig and Isaie Bloch, and digital manufacturers .MGX by Materialise are imaginative and boundary-pushing enough, however, to seriously challenge that sentiment. Van Herpen’s Crystallization collection, launched at S/S 2011 Amsterdam Fashion Week, was a first in its presentation of digitally-printed dresses, creating “a new direction of couture that combines fine handiwork techniques with futuristic digital technology.” Van Herpen hails from Wamel, a small town in the Netherlands, and studied fashion design at ArtEZ Institute of the Arts in Arnhem. After completing internships with Alexander McQueen in London and Claudy Jongstra in Amsterdam, the 27-year-old designer started her own selfnamed label in 2007. Although Van Herpen claimed that she “doesn’t have a mentor” in an Italian Vogue interview (December 2010), both designers’ influence is apparent in Van Herpen’s unique aesthetic. In her own words: In all my work I try to make clear that fashion is an artistic expression, showing and wearing art, and not just a functional and devoid of content or commercial tool. I intend to show that fashion can certainly have an added value to the world, that it is timeless and that its consumption can be less important then its beginning. Wearing clothing can create a very exciting and imperative form of self-expression. ‘Form follows function’ is not a slogan with which I concur. On the contrary, I find that forms complement and change the body and thus the emotion. Movement, so essential to and in the body, is just as important in my work. By bringing form, structure and materials together in a new manner, I try to suggest and realize optimal tension and movement.
based on an old one. They’re really concepts that exist in my mind. Everyday things that I translate into my collections, I usually start totally from scratch.” Van Herpen’s latest collection, Capriole, debuted five looks researched and developed with Bloch and .MGX at A/W 2011 Paris Haute Couture. The pieces’ geometric structure and dreamlike aura have been fast-drawing comparisons to McQueen (YouTube her Crystallization show and compare to the Legend’s Paris finale); as the Washington Post review read, “No other designer on the three-day-long couture calendar came anywhere near to pushing the envelope as far as Iris Van Herpen.” “Re-evaluating reality, shape shifting and frightening concepts. Crafted elegance combined with innovative materials that create a futuristic touch. Complexity and joy for life. Expressing and underlining individuality. The world to come.” When asked by Vogue Italia to describe her “greatest dream,” Van Herpen replied, “That all my dreams come true.” With her ability to turn vision into reality, I think it’s safe to say that many of them already have.
Crystallization was the first of three Van Herpen collections co-created with an architect’s eye and .MGX’s laser-sintering technique, which selectively fuses small pieces of plastic or nylon powder into a desired three-dimensional shape. A combination of rapid-prototyping and traditional sewing, the pieces in Crystallization were inspired by the “transformation of liquid into crystals,” and the “structure and chaos” dually-embodied by this process: It started with a collaboration with Benthem Crouwel Architekten. They designed a museum that looks like a massive bathtub and asked me to design a dress inspired by that museum. I decided to design what was missing: the water inside the bath; a dress that is like a warm bath around you, splashed around the body. While working on the water-dress, I got fascinated by the secrets and invisibility of water. It is the opposite of structure and chaos within water that I translated in this collection.
Van Herpen’s next collection, Escapism, showed at Paris Fashion Week. The aim was to make more lightweight and flexible —read: wearable—dresses, while delving deeper into advanced digital design techniques and computer-aided manufacturing. Although Escapism was the evolution of her previous work, Van Herpen insists that each piece is utterly unique: “Most of my concepts are fairly abstract. I don’t like creating a new image
OPPOSITE, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: a look from Van Herpen’s Escapism collection; the opening of the Crystallization show; the designer with models at the close of her Crystallization show; a look from the Crystallization collection; a look from the Capriole collection, Paris Haute Couture show; a look from the Crystallization collection.
FALL INTO FASHION It's the September issue! Featuring Semi Precious Weapons and the death of rock'n'roll, the war within our "united" nation...