PARIS--Mechanical Couture, an exhibition which opens next week at Israel's Design Museum Holon, calls attention to the couture-tech courtship. So we thought it was time we caught up with Dutch designer Iris van Herpen, whose S/S 2011 collection includes a fossil-thin bolero made by what is essentially a 3D printer. From collaborations with Ecco leather, Rem D Koolhaas' shoe line United Nude and choreographer Nanine Lenning, Iris manipulates materials into structural explorations that have brought weary showgoers to their feet. We tracked Iris to her Paris showroom to find out what it's like to go hi-tech...and to demand an explanation for her absence from London Fashion Week last month, where the 26-year-old designer has been showing since her graduation from talent incubator Central Saint Martins.
Your shows are always jaw-droppers and a highlight of LFW, what made you bow out so soon before? I skipped LFW this season because after I showed a few pieces at Amsterdam (Fashion Week). I got a lot of nice orders and I was crazily busy with them at the time. Also the most difficult pieces were ordered, like the water dress and the huge water collar! I did not think I would ever to be able to make them again, but, surprisingly, I am doing it at the moment. What prompted you to incorporate a material and process usually reserved for industrial design? It was an idea from Kaat Debo, director of the MoMu in Antwerp. There is a lot of rapid prototyping going around, but MGX by Materialise (production) is really progressive in what they do. And my designs are not easy, so I needed a company that likes a challenge, and they definitely do!
You said the concept for these pieces grew from an interest in the transformation of liquid into crystals. Did inspiration strike on a particularly cold day in the studio? Haha, no actually it was summer, super hot. And the funny thing is is that I used a hot air gun to make the water pieces. So that was suffering.....and sweaty. It started with a collaboration with Benthem Crouwel Architects, they designed a new museum in Amsterdam, called the Bathtub because it looks like that, and asked me to design a dress inspired on that museum. So I decided to design what is still missing in the bathtub abstractly, that was the water of course. So I wanted to make a dress that is like a warm bath floating around the body. I started to become so fascinated by the water, that I wanted to explore it more and develop that into my collection.
The design process must have differed greatly with 3D printing, did you have to design in CAD and was it a smooth transition for you? I designed on the computer. It looked 3D but was actually still 2D. Daniel (Widrig) translated the designs into real 3D and made a model for that. I enjoyed it apart from sitting so long behind a screen. And I hardly sketch any of my designs so I am really not used to this way of working so far ahead. But that makes it fun. The weirdest thing was that I saw the 3D sculpture for the first time the day of the show itself. That was a new experience as well because normally I am already sort of tired of the looks before they are on the catwalk.
You designed a limited edition shoe for United Nude for this fall, will we see more shoes/accessories in the future? For my Synesthesia (A/W 10) collection I designed shoes, the black, beige leather shoe with gold foil which are available now. For my new collection I designed the chain shoes, and we are collaborating on my first bag.
Last time we spoke I learned about your background in dance and your interests in costume design. Any recent collaborations? I am still working together with choreographer Nanine Linning. I designed all the costumes for her big opera 'Madame Butterfly' that premiered Sept. 25th. To see that world of opera and dance inspires me for my own work. It is intriguing to see the passion of the people that sing and dance a really old story and make it alive today.
Click through to see more of of Iris' work. **Images courtesy of Candy PR