Iris Van Herpen

To the Dutch, high fashion design isn’t about garments and accessories emblazoned with logos; their collections are much more intellectual and conceptual, to the point where they have almost sacrificed commercialism in their lofty pursuits. However, there have been some designers, such as Viktor & Rolf, who have been able to achieve commercial success and have grown to become luxury brands, while retaining their creativity and irreverence. Fortunately, Holland fully fosters and supports artistic endeavors of young talent through their many state-subsidized art schools, while also providing a platform during Amsterdam International Fashion Week to show their latest collections.

A highlight of AIFW was Lichting, supported by G-Star Raw, a competition for the top two students from each of Holland’s seven undergraduate fashion schools. These fourteen students presented five looks on the runway to a packed house of industry insiders, and a panel of fashion heavyweights determined the winner of the coveted Euro G-Star Raw Talent Award, who received 10,000 Euros and a chance to work backstage at the G-Star New York Fashion Week show. Looks varied from minimalist tailored looks to unwearable conceptual pieces. The winner was Marije de Haan from the Royal Academy of Arts in the Hague, who showed a menswear collection inspired by crime scene photography from the 1920s.

One of the rising new Dutch talents to watch was Iris van Herpen, who launched almost seven seasons ago after stints at Alexander McQueen and Viktor & Rolf. Her futuristic, avant-garde couture pieces were so intricate and detailed that they resembled sculptures molded into clothing. Herpen used modern technologies and architectural materials to infuse into her line. Her latest Spring 2011 collection was based on water.

“I started to make a water dress which really looked like it was made of water and I was so inspired by the material—it was so organic and totally transparent. Like water when it freezes, you get the ice crystal and there is so much mathematic structure to it. I started building on it taking opposite materials.”

What influences her?
“Everything that happens around me influences me. I did an internship at McQueen; I really like it when a designer takes his own personality and is not afraid to show it in his work. My collection is quite personal. It’s really me. I try to focus on quality rather than quantity—it’s a lot about detailing, craftsmanship, and also about innovation. I’m working with a lot of new techniques. I made a garment made with 3-D printing that looks like a skeleton of an animal that doesn’t exist with their bone structure.”

How would she bridge the gap between commercialism and conceptualism?
“I think they go well together and they need each other because if you really work on a concept, you can inspire people with your thoughts; if it says something about the world in a direct way, in that way it’s also part of the commercial side.”

Though Iris van Herpen’s clothing is not currently available in the US, her limited edition sky-high “Armadillo” heels will be sold stateside at select retailers this fall.

-Hillary Latos
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