Iris van Herpen has a very unique and elevated style of couture. It’s artisanal and it certainly meets the Chambre Syndicale du Prêt-à-Porter’s requirements, but there are elements that step away from anything too traditional or too princess bride. She is often looking to art or nature for inspiration, pushing boundaries with her innovative materials and methods. The front row was a testament to this, as artists and influencers, Marina Abramović was one, appeared next to the critics and fans to see what magical design methodologies were on offer.
Indeed, van Herpen’s S/S 18 collection was looking to the arts, as well as to nature, as she had worked with and been inspired by Peter Gentenaar, a paper-based artist whose work often takes on leaf-like shapes. His tumbling forms were hung throughout the Gallerie of Minerologie for the show and looked as though they were floating, or sailing along an imaginary current. They mirrored van Herpen’s inspirations of natural and manmade landscapes - all from a bird’s-eye view. 'Gentenaar really worked on capturing the movement, the movement within nature,' says van Herpen. 'I try to do the same with my work. I looked at our planet from a distance and you really see the natural patterns dissolving in the urban patterns. That transformation I also try to capture. It’s not only about nature it’s also the transformation that we create from nature.'
This collection saw laser cut detailing mimic a bird’s eye landscape, mini A-line skirts mirror rolling hills or rivers and sculptured twists and curls atop mini-dress and sleeve insinuate nature’s constant flux. Silhouettes were curved or hugging the body - they themselves a reference to the linear patterns van Herpen was looking to.
If Genkenaar looks to paper for his structures and medium, van Herpen too was looking to capture a similar effect. A sheer, thin, paper-like and almost translucent material was used throughout on jumpsuit and on midi dress. In true van Herpen fashion, the material was an innovation - just 0.3mm thin. She had been collaborating with The University of Technology in the Netherlands, developing a new method of 3D printing. 'We can put the fabric inside the printer. This makes the whole printing process much more flexible and durable. It has been a big step and we are able now to combine the craftsmanship of the fabric development together with the 3D printing,' says van Herpen. Layers of tile like accents were placed atop these sheer swathes, adding another terrain to the streamlined forms. One can't imagine how delicate these pieces are.
The finale look, one so breathtaking my neighbour let out a stage whisper 'Wow' upon seeing it, was very much inspired by the work of the artist. 'He has been developing his craft for over thirty years and I really wanted to dedicate that fine piece to his work.' It’s tinges of iridescence leaving a mirage as Soo Joo strode.
This is a different type of decadent couture, decadent it still is, but this is for the individual who wants to know the craft, the backstory, who wants to look like a nymph or a goddess or who wants to wear a fashion innovation. It's abstract, it's beautiful, it's Iris.