A model walks down the runway clad in an ankle-length dress. The garment changes colour, opacity and shape with each step. It is red and white, solid and see-through, all at once. Every movement is accentuated by undulating waves of fluid fabric. The piece was part of Iris van Herpen’s Spring/Summer 2019 collection, Shift Souls, and was made using the couture house’s “glitch” technique. This involves heat-bonding printed silk to mylar, a polyester film. The resulting material is then lasercut into an intricately fine lace only 0.5mm wide. Gowns made from this signature “harmonica wave” come alive as the wearer moves.
The ways humans have continuously sought to map the stars was a source of inspiration for the collection. In particular, Van Herpen references German-Dutch celestial cartographer Andreas Cellarius’s (1956-1665) famous star atlas Harmonia Macrocosmica (1660). She also credits visual artist Kim Keever (b. 1955), who shoots abstract photographs of paint and ink dispersed underwater. The colours spread in smoke-like tendrils whilst retaining a soft, cloud-like texture. Frozen in time, these look like ephemeral sculptures that call to mind Judy Chicago’s Atmospheres (1968-1974) or Neal Grundy’s Transient Sculptures (2020). The designer’s meticulous research for each project extends far beyond just contemporary art and fashion. Each collection incorporates elements that reference chemistry, ecology, history and marine biology.
The Glitch dress from the Shift Souls collection is a prime example of Van Herpen’s fascination with movement and textile innovation. Her imaginative, fluid designs envelope the wearer’s body. Here, clothing isn’t about restriction but expression. These wearable art pieces have graced top galleries and fairs around the world, such as Vitra Design Museum in London, the NGV Triennial in Melbourne and the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Musée des Arts décoratifs pays tribute to this forward-thinking designer in their latest show, Iris van Herpen. Sculpting the Senses. Over 100 haute couture pieces will be on display with work from contemporary artists such as Philip Beesley, Casey Curran and Ren Ri. The show takes visitors on an immersive journey to where the boundaries between couture craftsmanship and bold innovation collide.
MAD Paris, Iris van Herpen. Sculpting the Senses | Until 28 April
Words: Diana Bestwish Tetteh
- Sølve Sundsbø for Iris van Herpen, Haut Hypersonic Speed, Collection Capriole, 2018. Private collection of Iris van Herpen.
- David Uzochukwu for Iris van Herpen, Hydrozoa Dress, Sensory Seas Collection, 2020. Iris van Herpen private collection. © All rights reserved.
- David Uzochukwu for Iris van Herpen, Sensory Seas Dress & Nautiloid Dress, Sensory Seas Collection, 2020. Iris van Herpen private collection. © All rights reserved.