Iris van Herpen, Queen of “New Couture”


The highly respected Dutch couturier Iris van Herpen has an indisputably singular mind. A graduate of the ArtEZ Institute of the Arts Arnhem in the Netherlands, her rise through the world of fashion has been meteoric. Today, she is hailed as one of the most innovative and exciting designers of the 21st century, and her pieces feature in collections all over the world, such as New York’s Met Museum. A solo exhibition of her work is currently on view at the Dallas Museum of Art until August 20, 2017.

Her work almost defies description—a blend of science, fashion design, sculpture, digital technology, nature and engineering. Quite simply, there is nothing like it, which is why she calls what she does “new couture.”

On July 3, the occasion of the 10th anniversary of her atelier, the 33-year-old classically trained ballerina unveiled her new Fall/Winter 2017 collection, Aeriform, at Paris Haute Couture. This was followed by a first: her startlingly original debut crystal collection, the Designer Edition by Iris van Herpen for Swarovski.

Van Herpen has been a member of the Swarovski Collective since 2015, and she never ceases to surprise with her unusual craftsmanship—a mix of old, sometimes forgotten techniques and tech-inspired, futuristic materials. Aeriform featured 18 elaborate silhouettes, their textiles and construction inspired by air and water, which was reflected in rippling patterning and translucent layering. Among them was a tulle dress embellished with Couture Studs, which Swarovski had developed specially for her show.

Swarovski crystals have long featured prominently in her armory of creative ingredients: “Crystals bring magic—we’re instinctively drawn to them,” she says. So it was perhaps only a matter of time before she would turn her attention to pushing the boundaries of crystal just as she has done in couture.

After the runway presentation of Aeriform, she introduced the fashion industry to her eerily futuristic crystal Designer Edition at a reception in the Hôtel d’Évreux. Growing Crystal features fascinating, otherworldly rhomboids and rectangles of multilayered complexity, which she had earlier shown shimmering on a black clutch as part of her Aeriform runway show. 3D Studs is a series of metal studs tipped with crystals at various heights; 3D-studded surfaces have an unusual dynamic topography.

There is more excitement to come: in September, there will be the Iris van Herpen product launch. Watch this space…

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