Iris Van Herpen Looked to Fungi to Inspire Her Spring 2021 Couture Collection

She eschewed straightforward mushroom motifs for more subtle references to the intricate, branching networks of fungi underground.
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Iris van Herpen Couture - SS21 'Roots of Rebirth' - Photographed by Myrthe Giesbers 8-mushroom fungi

Fungi have had quite the moment in fashion and beauty over the past year, showing up as motifs on designer goods, as ingredients in wellness supplements and even as the materials out of which to make hats, shoes and more. And as the central inspiration for Iris Van Herpen's Spring 2021 haute couture collection, fungi don't look like they'll be vacating the fashion sphere anytime soon.

Long known for her ethereal creations and technology-aided design process, Van Herpen looked to some of nature's most otherworldly living things to infuse her latest haute couture collection, entitled "Roots of Rebirth," with a sense of the weird and wonderful. The goal was to create a collection that "references the intricacy of fungi and the entanglement of life that breathes beneath our feet," the designer detailed in a press release.

"Through 'Roots of Rebirth,' Van Herpen notions towards the miraculous lacery of interconnectedness from the natural 'wood wide web,' weaving a dialogue between the terrestrial and the underworld," the brand said in a statement, referencing the way that fungi help trees and other organisms communicate with one another via underground networks. 

The pieces contained in the collection are full of the intricate, gravity-defying elements that have long characterized Van Herpen's work. Anyone looking for a straightforward mushroom motif akin to the red-capped toadstools that are so common in pop culture will be disappointed. But those who are more familiar with the incredible variety of ways in which fungi show up in the world will be able to see fungi's role in inspiring the delicate, branching patterns, the fans and frills and the color story of the collection. 

Even the show itself, which was presented as a video of an audience-less runway in a dark room, contains subtle references to the mycological: as the models walk across the floor, tiny particles appear to arise around them, referencing the thousands of spores that mushrooms release as a means of reproduction.

Though none of the dresses in Van Herpen's collection are made out of any of the futuristic mycelium-based materials currently in development, her materials referenced in at least one way a concern for the environment that goes beyond treating it as visual inspiration: at least one piece was made from fabric created by marine debris in partnership with Parley for the Oceans.

See how many fungal references you can spot in Iris Van Herpen's Spring 2021 couture collection by flipping through the gallery below.

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