Between The Lines
“Between the Lines”, Dutch designer Iris van Herpen’s new Couture collection
presented in Paris on January 23rd 2017, explores the imperfection of systems
and structure in both the physical and digital worlds.

Van Herpen focuses on the gaps in between the structures of her materials,
rather then the structures themselves, by shaping patterns that dissimulate the
body’s perspective or subtract it. By building up the patterns and then distorting
them, the eye’s perspective is tricked and challenged to see new
patterns occurring in between.
Linear shifts and sharp contrasts form the base of this innovative approach to
material development and patternmaking and challenge us to “mind the system,
but to find the gaps.”

To compliment her vision for this show, van Herpen collaborated with the Berlin
artist Esther Stocker, who is known for her manipulation of dimensional
geometries. She subverts spatial grids until the mind starts making linear
connections that aren’t really there.
For this show Stocker creates a tunnel of visual distortion, in which the models
evolve within a conflict of light and shadow. By building up the lines and then
distorting them, the eye shifts to see new lines emerge in between. For Stocker,
the experience is implied as much by its gaps as it is by its contours.

The distortion created by glitches, short-lived faults in a digital system,
also formed the design process of this collection, creating a new unexpected
beauty of imperfection.
The optical manipulation within the garments is based on hypnotic repetitive
patterns in a minimal palette of black and white only, in order to delineate the
silhouettes and textures.

New techniques in this collection include soft 3D hand-casted PU fabrics that
are hand-painted through injection molding and fine expandable laser-cut Mylar
fabrics reminiscent of digital glitches in collaboration with architect Philip

The copper--plated diagonal heels shift the balance of the shoe, leaving a
rectangular gap between the lines


For “Seijaku”, the Couture collection presented in Paris on July 4th, 2016 Iris van Herpen explores the study of cymatics, which visualizes sound waves as evolving geometric patterns. In cymatics, the higher the frequency of the sound wave, the more complex the visible patterns.
To provide a seamless experience between the show and its concept, Van Herpen collaborated with the Japanese musician Kazuya Nagaya to create a Zen bowl sound installation. “Seijaku" is the Japanese word and concept for finding serenity amidst life’s chaos. The artist performs live during the show in the L’Oratoire du Louvre which was specifically chosen for its exceptional acoustics that fuse the meditative sound waves of the Zen bowls. Within this immersive environment the models and the audience engage in a collective experience which breaks down the barrier between them.
The collection reflects circular shapes and geometric patterns that are common in Cymatics, which serve as the base for this collection’s biomorphic volumes.
Van Herpen continues exploring her ethos of “modern couture” by
coating thousands of hand-blown glass bubbles in transparent silicone, creating a bioluminescent prism around the body.
Inspired by the work of the Japanese artist Kohei Nawa, van Herpen also uses a similar technique to silicone-coat tens of thousands of Swarovski water drop crystals, creating a dress with the look of a wet skin covered in dew drops.
Other fabric techniques developed exclusively for the collection include stitching pearl-coated rubber fabric onto black tulle to create fossil and floral layering. A halter dress is laser cut and stretched over black wire to scroll around the body like waves of sound in a shell.
Ethereal dresses float on a 3D moiré technique in which hand- plisséed and line-printed organza is handstitched on transparent tulle.
The lightest Japanese organza is woven from threads five times thinner than human hair and made with the traditional Shibori technique, creating unique Cymatic patterns.



The unreality of seeing

For her LUCID collection, presented in Paris on March 8th, 2016, the Dutch designer Iris van Herpen explores the concept of lucid dreaming. Within a lucid dream, the dreamer is conscious of the dream
state and therefore is able to exert a degree of control on what is happening.

“When I design, the draping process most of the time happens to me unconsciously. I see lucid dreams as a microscope with which I can look into my unconsciousness. In this collection, I have tried to bring my state of ‘reality’ and my state of dreaming, together,” notes the designer.

Both the models and the audience are mirrored as one in the show space, creating a close-up and intimate experience that is amplified by seventeen large optical light screens (OLF). Depending on the viewing angle, movement and proximity to the sheets, the perception of the audience that view the models is continuously shifted and deluded to reflect the fine line between reality and unreality. The visual alienation of the OLF was influential to van Herpen her design process.

There are 2 main design techniques presented in the collection: the lucid looks and the phantom dresses. The lucid looks result from the designer’s continuous collaboration with the artist and architect Philip Beesley. These looks are made from transparent hexagonal laser-cut elements that are connected with translucent flexible tubes, creating a glistering bubble-like exoskeleton around the wearer’s body. The phantom looks are made with a super light tulle to which iridescent stripes are fused, shimmering the silhouette illusory.

Continuing van Herpen’s vigor of fusing technology with handcraft, the collection features two 3D printed Magma dresses that are combining flexible TPU printing, creating a fine web together with polyamide printing. One of the dresses is stitched from 5,000 3D printed elements.

This season van Herpen opted for organic, circular, and voluminous silhouettes in light, iridescent colors of nude, green, and gray.
The Aero shoes in collaboration with Finsk, are made from wood, laser-cut leather and an ultra-thin transparent acrylic heel that separate the sole and the upper, creating a hovering look.


Wilderness Embodied Couture
WILDERNESS EMBODIED - July 2013, Paris Haute Couture week
Nature is wild. Generated by powerful forces. Its proliferates by creating startling beauty.
Trough her collaboration with artist Jolan van der Wiel, who has spent several years ponderingthe possibilities of magnetism, they have created dresses whose very forms are generated by the phenomenon of attraction and repulsion. Iris van Herpen draws equally upon the life force that pulses through the sculptures of DavidAltmejd. His wild organic forms derived from the regenerative processes of nature have inspired Wilderness Embodied.
The human spiritis forged of this same vital energy, coursing and erupting through the limits of the body in suchresplendent displays of extreme tradition or technology as piercings, scarification or surgery.This wild(er)ness of the human body, as unchecked as it is intimate, is one that the designer hassought to reveal the collection.With architect Isaie Bloch and Materialise she continues to develop 3D-printed dresses, which she was the first to present in both static and flexible forms. Her partnership with United Nude's Rem D. Koolhaas and Stratasys has led to shoes like tangled webs of tree-roots around the foot.


Voltage Couture
For her fourth collection presented in Paris as a guest member of the Chambre syndicale de la Haute Couture, Iris van Herpen explores the electricity of the body. Experimenting with its use in the field of creation, this collection seeks to portray its tangible movement and power. This ability of light and electricity to change states and bodies is reproduced using the most innovative technologies. Described as an alchemist approach to fashion, Van Herpen’s designs perpetually embrace new collaborations with artists, architects and researchers.
As part of the show she collaborated with new Zealand artist Carlos Van Camp, echoing his notion of controlling high voltage electricity and its interaction with the human body. Van Camp experiments with three million volts running through bodies.
Van Herpen shares Canadian architect Philip Beesley’s fascination with materials and structures. They focus specifically on how the reaction of chemistry and electricity causes structures to respond to their environment and react as living beings.

Iris van Herpen is also know for being todays leading fashion designer in the use of 3d printing. Drawing on the idea of movement, the flexible 3D printed dresses are a revolution, a result of collaborations with Neri Oxman of the MIT Media Lab as well as Keren Oxman and Prof. Craig Carter of MIT with Stratasys, and architect Julia Koerner with Materialise.

Continuing for the seventh season, the catwalk shoes are the result of the collaboration between Iris Van Herpen and United Nude.


Hybrid Holism Couture
HYBRID HOLISM – July 2012, Paris Haute Couture Week
The project Hylozoic Ground by the Canadian architect and artist Philip Beesley provided the inspiration for this collection. Hylozoic refers to Hylozoism, the ancient belief that all matter is in some sense alive. Beesley created a responsive architectural system that uses hylozoism in a quite specific way, that is, “we are working with subtle materials, electricity and chemistry, weaving together interactions that at first create an architecture that simulates life but increasingly these interactions are starting to act like life, like some of the ingredients of life”. His environment breathes, shifts and moves in relationship to people walking through it, touching it, and sensing it.
Microprocessors invest that environment with a primitive or insect-like intelligence like a coral reef or a great swarm.Iris van Herpen is intrigued by these kinds of possibilities for a future of fashion that might take on quite unimaginable shapes. Fashion that might be partly alive and growing, and, therefore, existing partly independent from us, which in turn allows for a new treatment by humans: instead of discarding the fashion after use, we cherish, value, and maintain it in its abilities to change constantly. Van Herpen’s translated this future vision in a collection that is highly complex and incredibly diverse in terms of shape, structure, and material. For one design, the ‘pythagoras tree' dress Van Herpen collaborates with architect Julia Koerner using a technique referred to as mammoth stereolithography which refers to a 3D printing method. This 3D printed process is built slice by slice from bottom to top, in a vessel of semi-transparent polymer that hardens when struck by a laser beam.


Micro Couture
MICRO – January 2012, Paris Haute Couture Week
Inspired by the pictures that science photographer Steve Gschmeissner took using Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) technology, Micro zooms in on the world of microorganisms that is completely hidden from our sight.
The pictures show specimens that are dead, dried, and chemically fixated to preserve and stabilize their structures. Van Herpen remains interested in the living organism. Her designs allude to armature, tentacles, cell structures, and plasma. Some seem moist others glow and move while being worn, coming to live on the body.


Capriole Couture
CAPRIOLE – July 2011, Paris Haute Couture Week
Iris van Herpen made her debut in Paris as member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture with this collection. Besides being a compilation of highlights from previous collections, this new collection also presented five striking outfits that evoke the feeling just before and during a free-fall parachute jump. A ‘leap in the air’ (the meaning of the French word Capriole) that Van Herpen once in a while takes to reset her body and mind.
The five outfits are a reflection of the extreme feelings experienced during that jump. For instance, the dress consisting of serpentine forms made of black acrylic sheets, nicknamed the ‘snake dress’, evokes the mental state at the moment before the jump when, as Van Herpen explains, “all my energy is in my head and I feel as though my mind is snaking through thousands of bends”.


CRYSTALLIZATION – July 2010, Amsterdam Fashion Week
At the instigation of ARCAM (Architecture Centre Amsterdam) a collaboration was organized between Iris van Herpen and Benthem Crouwel Architekten. Benthem Crouwel’s design for a new extension to Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum had earned the nickname ‘bath tub’.
This inspired Van Herpen to design a dress that would fall around the wearer like a splash of water, like being immersed in a warm bath, and to express in the collection the different states, structures and patterns of water. Noteworthy is that in this collection Van Herpen presents her first 3D-print that she created in collaboration with the London-based architect Daniel Widrig and that was printed by .MGX by Materialise.


Escapism Couture
ESCAPISM – January 2011, Paris Haute Couture Week
Escaping from everyday reality through addictive digital entertainment incites in Iris van Herpen not only feelings of emptiness but also associations with the grotesque, the extreme and the fantastic. This collection aims to capture both the exaltation of these addictions, like the disproportionate attention for celebrities (the ‘new heroes’) and its dark flipside, the never fulfilled hunger that is inherent to it.
Another important source of inspiration were the exuberant baroque sculptures of the American artist Kris Kuksi. Dramatic bulging spherical shapes alternate with lace- and skeleton-like 3D-prints, and silver-grey fabrics that seem to reflect their own surface.


SYNESTHESIA – February 2010, London Fashion Week
Synaesthesia is a neurological condition that results in a combination of sensory perceptions. To underscore the hypersensitivity of the body, and to visualize this entanglement of sensory perceptions Van Herpen secured shiny metal foil on specially treated leather that generated a confusing visual effect without a steady fixation point. Synesthesia is an extreme sensitivity of the body, as  a result of which all the senses  merge. You can see colors when hearing music or experience taste.
People who have this 'abnormality' are actually living in a constant natural trip. In this collection Iris has approached the body as a manipulative, sensitive and fragile object by enlarging body parts through transparency, movement and extreme repetition so as to emphasize extremely refined craftsmanship. She confused the eyes and gives clothing an extra dimension by combining  movement with liveliness. "I wonder if in the future clothing will support some of our senses or even take over." 


Radiation Invasion
RADIATION INVASION – September 2009, London Fashion Week
Radiation Invasion translates Iris van Herpen’s question of what we could do with our daily (over)dose of electromagnetic waves and digital information streams if we could see them. In these designs the wearer seems to be surrounded by a whimsical complex of wavy rays, flickering patterns, vibrating particles, and reflecting pleats. The collection is about all the invisible rays (particularly electronics) with which  we are constantly surrounded and immersed.
Something which is both scary and interesting. Iris thinks that in the future other ways will be found to detect radiation, where, apart from the body, a new dimension will develop.  This collection is her representation of how it would look if we could detect radiation in the future and if we could control the radiation waves, if we, as a magnet, could attract and repel. 'Being beautiful" gets a whole new and more comprehensive form. 


MUMMIFICATION – January 2009, Amsterdam Fashion Week
Van Herpen became captivated with the macabre beauty of ancient Egyptian mummification and the intense devotion that surrounds the process. With techniques to swaddle, wrap and cover the body along with the typical geometric and graphic patterns of Egyptian mummies, she elaborates on the practice of the ancient Egyptians to create a new reality for their dead. She considers the 'reality' that they created for their dead as the reality, while they considered daily life an illusion.
She understood this as follows: take everything that seems obvious at face value, but create your own reality. Iris realized this chain of thoughts by combining their ancient techniques with modern materials and thus creating her own new reality. The wrapping and binding of the body and the emphasize of certain parts of the body such as the Egyptians did (as the head) are central in the collection. The collection is handmade from (ECCO) leather, which has been treated with different techniques and lace, tens of thousands of eyelets, ball chain, motorcycle chain and thousands of metal balls.


Refinery Smoke
REFINERY SMOKE – July 2008, Amsterdam Fashion Week
The ambiguous character of refinery smoke, both beautiful and poisonous, inspired this collection. Van Herpen translated the elusiveness of industrial smoke into specially woven metal gauze. She turned metal threads into an extremely soft and pliable material. The metal kept its characteristic of oxidation and Van Herpen considers this inherent chemical process as (visually) reflecting the dual aspect of industrial smoke.
The organic, liquid, up-creeping smoke looks smooth and dynamic, yet at the same time is frightening, sinister and dangerous. Iris wants to give the viewer this mixed feeling about the collection by manipulating the unpleasant industrial material metal mesh into something soft and lively. The smoke seems to be alive, is tragic but also soft like something you would want to wear. "Will there be a time when clothing is unnecessary and that something as intangible as smoke could be 'worn' on the body? 


Chemical Crows
CHEMICAL CROWS – January 2008, Amsterdam Fashion Week
A group of crows living around Van Herpen’s studio triggered her association with black magic and alchemy. Crows are known for their intelligence, predilection for glittering objects, and are traditionally associated with secrecy and symbolism. Van Herpen shares with alchemists a passion for controlling and transmuting materials. As alchemists tried to turn base metals into gold, so Van Herpen has transformed in several designs gold-coloured ribs of 700 children’s umbrellas into shapes reminiscent of the movement of wings and feathers.
The quest of the alchemists to change 'all metals into gold by using the right chemicals', gave Iris the idea to change the active and mysterious crows into gold and to manipulate the reality of material control. The collection is handcrafted from thousands of brass ribs, so as to maintain the refinement of the feathers, but hard as gold.  What  the alchemists were doing back then, gaining the  control over materials, is actually relevant now that 3D-printing is upcoming.