A surprising avant-garde dress by Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris

The Museum of Decorative Arts pays tribute to Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen until April 28, 2024. One of the most avant-garde figures of his generation, he transcends the codes of conventional clothing with his creations of sensual designs, capturing the diversity and complexity of nature.

Iris van Herpen was born in 1984 and grew up in the village of Wamel in harmony with nature and the living world, which together with classical and contemporary dance, which she practiced from an early age, were the basic elements of her relationship with the body. and clothing. After a formative period with Alexander McQueen and Claudy Jongstra, she founded her house in Amsterdam in 2007, which combines the subtleties of traditional couture know-how. with innovative techniques. Four years later, she joined the Chambre Syndicale de la haute couture in Paris. 2010 marked a turning point in her career when she presented her first 3D printed dress from the collection Crystallizationcurrently led by MAD.

Exhibition Iris van Herpen Sculpting the Senses it questions the place of the body in the universe, its relationship to clothing and its environment, its future in a changing world. Around a hundred dresses interact with contemporary artworks, installations, videos, photographs and works of natural history such as Philip Beesley, Collectif Me, Wim Delvoye, Rogan Brown, Kate MccGwire, Damien Jalet, Kohei Nawa, Casey Curran, Jacques Rougerie, as well such as the design creations of Neri Oxman, Ren Ri, Ferruccio Laviani and Tomas Libertíny, but also pieces from the natural sciences, such as corals or fossils.

This retrospective identifies in nine themes the very essence of his work, which combines fashion, contemporary art, design and science. An evocation of his workshop in Amsterdam and a space dedicated to his fashion shows complement the exhibition accompanied by a sound piece created by the artist Salvador Breed.

Water and dreams

The theme of water and the origin of life, omnipresent in the designer’s work, begins a journey that begins with the first room dedicated to her: liquid, solid, gaseous, it regularly appears in her creations until it becomes the main theme in 2010. collections Crystallization. Water, the main component of the human body, emerges from his clothes in the form of a raindrop, tsunami, foam, crystalline liquid, waves, bubbles suspended in space, transparent splashes, waves. The designer uses a range of materials and techniques, from blown glass to thermoformed Plexiglas, from laser cutting to Suminagashi, a Japanese marbled ink drawing technique, to bring this aquatic universe to life on even more incredible dresses.

She is also captivated by the invisible world that lies beneath the surface of the oceans. In 2020 in your collection Sensory seas, uses this ecosystem and the plankton bestiary and marine animals to draw the lines and textures of her clothes. Unicellular creatures and the hydrozoan family, including jellyfish, inspire her and the designer then transposes them into the world of haute couture.

The forces of life

Iris van Herpen’s fascination with forms from nature led her to consider morphogenesis (set of laws that determine the shape, structure of tissues, organs and organisms) and creative forces at the beginning of life. Biologist Ernst Haeckel’s infinitesimal and illustrated plates that highlighted microscopic creatures in the 19th century fascinated her. His concern for the protection of the environment encourages him to awaken our view of the world as in his collection East of the Earthin collaboration with artist Rogan Brown, where he enlarges recycled plastic.

Incarnate skeleton

Cabinets of curiosities and anatomical galleries are also an inspiration for Iris van Herpen, who analyzes skeletons but also muscles, substances that offer more than clothing, more than dresses, hybrid structures, mutations of complex anatomy that take shape as an elongated body. It accentuates what can only be guessed by the faint transparency of the skin or the genius of the machine. In a way, it offers an artistic magnetic resonance!

Dynamics of structures

The designer is also interested in the existence of structures, whether natural or artificial, organic or architectural, to extract ecosystems, growth processes and connections. Fungi make up this separate world, woven from a tangle of mycelial fibers that seduce her with both the beauty of their webs and the intelligence of their system. Ode to nature, his collection The roots of rebirth for example, is a tribute to this underground organic network.

Iris van Herpen Sculpting the Senses exhibition until April 28, 2024 at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris: the dynamics of structures (Corinne Jeammet)

Alchemist’s workshop

Upstairs, the exhibition continues with a room that is of great importance in the designer’s career: her workshop where she creates her collections in Amsterdam, in a former warehouse, in front of large bay windows opening onto the river. Each of her collections, surrounded by her team, begins with experiments with materials. This approach, which he describes as “craft solution” draws on the close links between craftsmanship and new technologies that project haute couture into a new future.

In this way, it opens the way to more sustainable and responsible alternatives thanks to its multidisciplinary approach of revising production methods, which leads it to collaborate with many experts. Each of his creations is a delicate balance of ingenuity, incorporating a range of techniques from silicone casting, 3D printing and waterjet cutting to antique pleating and magnetic sculptures.

Exposure "Iris van Herpen Sculpting the Senses" until April 28, 2024 at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris: the alchemical workshop (Corinne Jeammet)

Dark mythology

Born in the village of Wamel near Den Bosch, the city of the Flemish painter Hieronymus Bosch, Iris van Herpen grew up exploring the artist’s fantastic figures mixing alchemy, mysticism and allegory. It retains a taste for hybridization and exuberance that challenges animal and human nature and merges them into a chimeric being. Through his discoveries – made in the collections of hl Embassy of the Free Mind, in Amsterdam and in the cabinets of curiosities – explores the emotions of these imaginary worlds. From Ovid’s Metamorphoses to Japanese mythology, she also likes to reinterpret the mutations of our world.

New nature

In many collections, Iris van Herpen’s silhouettes, dressed in lifelines, celebrate a new concept of futuristic nature. By presenting perceptions of an imaginary future, he questions the differences between nature and artifice in the face of a society fascinated by the growing presence of the virtual. In collections Syntopia, escape AND Tension, questions the close ties between science and technology. In this way, Iris van Herpen combines disciplines and connects them to each other to give birth to a new definition of fashion. Clothing, transforming the body into a hybrid being, embodies a futuristic vision of our world.

space travel

This immersive journey into the designer’s unique and hybrid universe ends with a presentation of her works projected into the cosmos and its mysteries. In this scenography, her dress floats in the air between photographic works by artist Kim Keever and shots of nebulae. It is inspired by both the latest discoveries and the history of arts and sciences, the old maps of Andreas Cellarius and the telescope images of James Webb. The world is evolving in all its dimensions, like a multiverse, with no boundaries except those of the mind and its imagination, the soul and its cosmic journeys

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