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Our 5 Favorite Pieces from Iris van Herpen: Transforming Fashion

by Keith Gollar, Cynthia Amneus


Iris van Herpen: Transforming Fashion , Fashion , Special Exhibitions , Top 5 , Fashion Arts & Textiles

Working with unconventional materials such as transparent acrylic, industrial yarns, umbrella ribs and woven metal, Iris van Herpen has become a visionary in the world of fashion design. By introducing 3-D printing into fashion, Herpen is able to blend hi-tech processes with traditional handwork, creating imaginative sculptural garments.

Though each piece offers its own unique beauty and style, the five examples below have grown to become favorites at the Cincinnati Art Museum.


1. Capriole

Van Herpen made her debut in Paris as a guest member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture with this collection. A compilation of highlights from previous collections, Capriole also presented five strikingly new designs that evoke the feeling just before and during a free-fall parachute jump. Capriole is a French word meaning “leap in the air.” Van Herpen explains, “Just before I jump out of the plane, all my energy is in my head, and I feel as though my mind is snaking through thousands of bends. The moment of free fall is the complete opposite: all the energy is concentrated in my body; I can feel every fiber, and my mind is not working anymore. Once I’m safely on the ground, I feel born again.”

Image: Iris van Herpen (b. 1984), The Netherlands, Capriole, Dress, July 2011, transparent acrylic sheets, tulle and cotton, Groninger Museum, 2012.0227, © Iris van Herpen. Photo by Michel Zoeter 


2. Hacking Infinity

Iris van Herpen is fascinated by the architecture of shoes. They extend her creative vision around each collection, offering distilled versions of larger ideas. As an additional sculptural element, the shoes increase a garment’s visual impact during its introduction on the Paris runway.

Image: Iris van Herpen (b. 1984), The Netherlands, Hacking Infinity, Shoes, 2015, laser-cut cow leather, 3-D printed photopolymer and stereolithography resin, in collaboration with Noritaka Tatehana and 3-D Systems, Collection of the designer. Photograph © NORITAKA TATEHANA



3. Refinery Smoke

Refinery Smoke was based on the astonishing beauty, the ambiguity and the elusiveness of industrial smoke. Seen from a distance, smoke provides a fascinating and dynamic spectacle. At times it seems to be alive, but it also harbors something sinister and can even be toxic. These properties, along with its soft, flowing texture, made van Herpen wonder whether it might be possible to gain control of smoke to such an extent that it could be worn around the body.

Image: Iris van Herpen (b. 1984), The Netherlands, Refinery Smoke, Dress, July 2008, untreated woven metal gauze and cow leather, Groninger Museum, 2012.0196. Photo by Bart Oomes, No 6 Studios



4. Chemical Crows

Chemical Crows was inspired primarily by Iris van Herpen’s observations of a group of crows living around her studio. Her fascination with birds began at an early age, when she kept young jackdaws. Crows are known for their intelligence and predilection for glittering objects and are traditionally associated with secrecy and symbolism.

Iris van Herpen (b. 1984), The Netherlands, Chemical Crows, Skirt, Collar, January 2008, ribs of children’s umbrellas, industrial boat yarns, cow leather and metal eyelets, Groninger Museum, 2012.0191.a-b, © Iris van Herpen. Photo by Michel Zoeter



5. Crystallization

The design for the new extension to Amsterdam’s Stedelijik Museum, which earned the nickname ‘the bathtub’, inspired the Crystallization collection. Van Herpen sought to design a dress that would cascade around the wearer like a splash of water. The properties of water in its various states—such as its potential for chaos and unbounded nature when in liquid form and the mathematical beauty of the hard crystalline structures that appear when water freezes—are clearly recognizable in this collection

Iris van Herpen (b. 1984), The Netherlands, Crystallization, Dress, Collar, July 2010, transparent polyethylene terephthalate, ECCO leather with oil treatment, goat leather, silver chains and viscose, Groninger Museum, 2012.0206.ab, © Iris van Herpen. Photo by Michel Zoeter


Iris van Herpen: Transforming fashion will be on display now–January 7, 2018 in Galleries 232 and 233. Ticket prices vary, free for members. Purchase Tickets