Iris van Herpen is a Dutch fashion designer. She is famous for the fusion of technology with haute couture. Her work has been included in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, as well as in the Palais de Tokyo de Paris.
Van Herpen graduated from the ArtEZ University of the Arts in Arnhem in 2006 and interned at Alexander McQueen in London before launching her own label in 2007. The same year, she debuted er first Couture collection called “Chemical Crows” at the Amsterdam Fashion Week. And only four years later she became a guest-member of the Parisian Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. Since then, she has continuously exhibited her collections at Paris Fashion Week.
She pioneered the use of 3D printing techniques applied to the fashion world. Her design process utilises technologies such as rapid prototyping as one of the guiding principles in her work. In 2010, at the Amsterdam Fashion Week, she presented her first 3D-printed garment. The “Crystallization” top was inspired from the phase transition water undergoes when crystallises. It was 3D-printed from white polyamide.
Her work can be described as interdisciplinary since she finds inspiration outside of fashion and art worlds. Thus, she creates much of her work in collaboration with professionals from other fields such as sciences, technology and architecture. In 2010, van Herpen undertook her first collaboration outside of fashion, it was a collaboration with Benthem Crouwel Architekten, a Dutch architectural firm. Together they created the “Water” dress. Another example of inspiration outside the world of fashion and arts is “Sensory Seas”, her collection of 2020, which drew inspiration from both marine ecology and the work of the neuroanatomist Ramón y Cajal.
The critic describes her work as organic and innovative. Some critics has described her designs as a posthuman style. In fashion, the posthuman is a figure of interconnection and mutual imbrication that transforms human subjectivity by making alliances with non-humans. With the posthumanism, humans are not the centre anymore, but in the same level with technology and non-binary things, non-human objects.
Most of her projects are inspired by natural phenomena such as sound waves, wisps of smoke or magnetic fields that she combines with technologies. These drawings not only become an in betweenness, the body becomes blurred; posthuman.
A good example of this is the “Water” dress, which is an example of several interconnections: It’s a creation between craftsmanship and technology, as it is made by 3D printing; between the organic, the water, and the inorganic, the polyamide; also, between fluidity and solidity, the water and the hard polyamide material.
- She is also known for using materials such as dragon skin, synthetic boat rigging or the whalebones of children’s umbrellas.
- Lady Gaga has worn Iris van Herpen’s designs on several occasions.
- Because of her multidisciplinary approach to creation, she has collaborated with names such as Jolan van der Wiel, Björk, Benjamin Millepied, Sasha Waltz, Nick Knight and Neri Oxman; and architects such as Philip Beesley. Herpen’s interest in science and technology has led to ongoing conversations with CERN (The European Organization for Nuclear Research) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
- The TIME Magazine names Iris van Herpen’s 3D printed dresses one of the 50 Best Inventions of 2011.