Amelia’s Magazine | Iris Van Herpen

Home to canals and cannabis, dams, diamonds and professional damsels Holland is an entirely civilized and modern society. But one Dutch girl’s gaze is fixed on another civilization entirely. The first one. The grains of thought for designer Iris Van Herpen’s A/W ‘09 collection sprouted from the fertile banks of the River Nile in ancient Egypt. The young designer found inspiration in the post humous labor of love by which the ancient Egyptians sent their nearest and dearest off to the beyond. Forsaking strips of linen in favor of intricate leather lacework, her garments carefully envelop the body like grandiose and elegant mummies.


“Egyptians considered the ‘reality’ that they created for their deaths as THE reality, while their daily life was an illusion. In other words, don’t believe everything that looks obvious, but create your own reality…”
When asked how she might adapt this philosophy to her modern hectic life Iris supposes “give more and give another way of attention to everything around me and everything I do, making choices in another way and giving more space to the unexpected”
Sounds simple enough, coming from someone whose intense focus has yielded garments requiring the better part of a month and 4 assistants to complete, resulting in complex one-off works of art that are impossible to duplicate. That singularity is what lends these pieces much of their ephemeral quality.


Clearly passionate about fabrics Iris relishes the “challenge to look further than fabrics… to find interesting materials and get them out of their ‘reality’ or fuction.” She accomplishes this by “giving them another life” by creating her own function for them.
Iris has shown in both Amsterdam’s and Tokyo’s Fashion Weeks where her A/W ‘08 collection Chemical Crows ruffled more than a few feathers. The designer toys with the idea of juxtaposing industrial and traditional materials and has explored everything from radiating umbrella spoke dresses to lace facemasks (which I imagine go over very well with the female mexican wrestler set).


Pointing out that maths were her forte (as opposed to languages) Iris welcomes the structural challenges posed by the unique materials and her ambitious ideas. Confronted with endless recalculations in an effort to retain the delicate symmetry of her handmade pieces she admits the small, 10 piece collection, would be impossible to reproduce. A process which would, she admits, surely drive her to madness.


With stints at Alexander McQueen and Victor & Rolf Iris emerged with additional technical know-how and perhaps a clearer sense of purpose. “I learned… that I get restless if I cannot express myself and not do my own thing.”
Not having specifically intended to venture out on her own so quickly, Iris recalls launching herself into the creation of new designs the day after her graduation from Artez School of Arts. to the amazement, and at times concern, of friends.

The Ancient Egyptians believed that when someone died their soul left their body. It would then return and be reunited with the body after it was buried. However the soul needed to find and recognize the body in order to live forever. Hence the decadently decorative sarcophagi. Figuring we won’t be here forever….how would you design yours?

Categories ,Alexander McQueen, ,amsterdam, ,Amsterdam Fashion Week, ,artez, ,Chemical Crows, ,egyptian, ,fashion, ,Iris Van Herpen, ,leather, ,Tokyo Fashion Week, ,Victor & Rolf

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