Honestly, I think nowadays, it is rare to find a designer or fashion house that really pushes the limits of fashion. So many brands have stopped taking risks, more concerned with making money than anything else. People say haute couture is dead, but this is not true people! One designer really stands out when thinking of risk-taking, bending the rules, and pushing fashion into the twenty-first century with her high tech couture. This designer is Iris van Herpen.
Iris van Herpen is a dutch designer, and a graduate of ArtEZ (the same school that birthed the likes of Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Karl Lagerfeld, Balmain, Maison Martin Margiela, and more!). She started her own fashion line in 2007 and, over time, has developed her own incredibly unique, avant-garde approach to fashion, using unexpected materials and technology such as laser cutting and 3D printing to reimagine the human form. Her creations are strange and beautiful, with looks that seem to have come from the depths of the ocean or a distant galaxy. Her use of technology allows for looks that would have been impossible to create even just a few decades ago, which makes her designs all the more incredible. Gathering inspiration from the world around her, everything from nature to childhood memories to machinery is referenced in her designs. As a result, they can be light and whimsical, dark and haunting, or just plain weird.
Needless to say, her creations are not very retail-friendly, but they are not meant to be. Today, brands focus on selling, selling, and more selling, making consumers obsessed with copping designs from the latest drops. I don’t think this is a bad thing at all, but it can definitely subtract from a brand’s creativity. When selling to a mass market, logically, the product will be simplified to appeal to more people. And that’s just plain ol’ economics. Van Herpen, however, has been a guest member of Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture since 2011, giving her the resources and the time to experiment with these alien creations without added pressure form consumers. The Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture has been described as a “think tank” for the fashion world, allowing designers to basically do whatever the hell they want in the best way possible. You are way more likely to see her work in a museum than worn by someone on the street, as her designs are more often categorized as art rather than clothes. The extreme exaggerated silhouettes, and thousands of intricate pieces make her couture almost permanently stuck to the runway floor.
Now, I can see how people might think that goes against what fashion is. If you simplify fashion down to its most basic meaning, it is essentially just clothing, something needed so that people don’t walk around naked all the time. However, fashion has evolved to be so much more. It is a powerful form of expression, something that can be a political statement, a way of lifting people up or tearing them down. As corny as it sounds, a change in fashion can change society. Above all, fashion is an art form. No one should be able to say what fashion is or isn’t, what is allowed or prohibited. Visionaries like Van Herpen are important to pushing fashion into the future. Love it or hate it, I honestly don’t think it would be possible to look at her work without experiencing some type of emotion. That’s art baby and she is here to create it, in her own way.