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When Couture Collides with Science: A Retrospective of Iris Van Herpen’s Most Avant-Garde Creations

In an age of trend-driven high fashion, haute couture could be considered as a dying art form. Yet, thanks to forward-thinking creators who continue to push the boundaries of fashion design, the craft still has a place on the runway, and it has a future too.

Leading the way for the evolution of couture, is Iris Van Herpen: a Dutch-designer recognized for utilizing 3-D printing and constructing sculptural forms. Van Herpen’s technologically advanced process combines both hand and machine to construct modern materials and futuristic silhouettes that unite fashion with fantasy.

I definitely think it is a new form of couture,” said Van Herpen in an interview with Suzy. “I get a lot of inspiration from different fields, but I really see myself as a designer who is introducing those diverse areas into fashion. And that is my goal. It is not about the art or science separately; it is about taking bits from different fields and bringing them into my work.”

Pulling together science, nature, art and philosophy, Van Herpen’s theatrical designs have helped to revive couture and develop the craft, which has made Van Herpen a fixture on the Paris Haute Couture calendar since 2011. Ahead of Iris Van Herpen’s Fall 2019 haute couture show in Paris, we look back at some of the designer’s best creations to date. From laser-cut geometrics to gravity-defying garments, here are Van Herpen’s show-stopping looks from the last decade:

Following on from the theme of liquid clothing depicted for Spring 2011, the Fall 2011 finale featured another gravity-defying dress; a transparent water-like sculpture that emerged seamlessly from a neutral mini dress. The 3-D element spread into abstract patterns as it floated in the air.

The standout look from the Spring 2012 collection, the “Cathedral” dress, took inspiration from gothic European architecture and the Baroque sculptures, like the work of Kris Kuksi. Printed in polyamide, the dress resembled wood with a glossy finish created by copper electroplating.

This structured metallic shoulder dress was made through a complex process that used both craftsmanship and computer to form pleated layers that curved into the body. Inspired by the Canadian architect Philip Beesley and his installation “Hylozoic Ground,” it was one of many futuristic designs for Fall 2012.

Aptly named, “Wilderness Embodied,” this creation comes from the Fall 2013 collection. Resembling tangled roots and twisted foliage, the dress carried a storm of nature across the runway.

Pearly Plexiglas was digitally modeled before it was sewn into the twists, coils and clusters that formed this garment from Fall 2016. Inspired by cymatics – visualized sound waves that evolve into patterns – the delicate design could have been an interpreted as an instrument, an insect or a new art form.

Another example of the designer’s unique laser-cutting and heat bonding craft, this design from Fall 2017 was inspired by water, air and fluidity. Straight lines were printed onto organza and then gathered to create patterns that mirrored sound waves, fingerprints or the water’s surface.

This cat-suit from Spring 2018 reveals Van Herpen’s signature 3-D printing on illusion fabric. The detailed laser-cut pattern is fused onto tulle to form another intricate skin. The piece forms a marbled tattoo effect across the body which blends effortlessly into the sculptured headpiece.

From the Fall 2018 line, entitled “Syntopia,” this sheer cape design was inspired by biology blending into technology. The shiny Japanese organza created an otherworldly effect, resembling a pool of water that hung over the body.

From Spring 2019, this dress featured “anamorphic faces” hidden into rippling layers of silk. The model mirrored a surrealist painting as she walked down the runway in the fluid piece.

Named “Shift Souls,” Spring 2019 showcased unexpected color pops across unique forms. This sculptural dress in translucent organza was formed through petal-like layers emerging from the body in blue tones that flowed into delicate patterns.

See all the looks from Iris van Herpen’s Fall 2019 Couture show below:

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