Interview with Iris van Herpen
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10 questions with Fashion designer Iris van Herpen
Portrait of Designer Iris van Herpen
When did you know you wanted to be a designer?
So I first knew I wanted to be a designer when I was at the art academy. It was quite late, for a long time I thought I was going into dance. That was my dream, but along the way I realized I want to combine more disciplines.
I did one year of painting, sculpting and fashion where I realized I could combine everything in fashion.
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How has your dance training influenced your thinking?
I think everything that I do is about transformation, it's about movement, it's about extending the body into this transformative spirit. This really comes from my background in dance. When I was dancing my focus was on transformative motion, on how fluid we are as human beings. So this is what I want to express in the garments as well.
Tell us about your design process? We have read that you start the creation and design at the same time.
The creative process and the design process are very linked and quite chaotic. Production and design happen at the same time. We often start with a material development and then a technique development. Once we start draping the design changes and then we go full circle and start again with the design process. It's not like a straight line from beginning to end. We go forwards, backwards, left and right until we reach the final look that we love.
You often use unusual material in your designs. Can you tell us about the research and production process of these materials?
Finding new materials is an ongoing process. It's not something that I do for collections only. It includes collaborations we have outside of the Atelier with biologists, scientists, artists and fabric companies. All of this knowledge is combined to do a lot of tests and a lot of failures. I think a big part of that experimental process is also based on having an idea that is not realistic now, but you come back to it many years later and then actually it works.
It's a very organic process and the key element of it is collaboration. It's about bringing different people and disciplines together and sharing knowledge. Making the impossible happen, sometimes.
How has your design evolved through the years?
My designs have evolved throughout the years in different ways. They have become more fluid. The inspiration of dance and transformation has always been there, but the techniques have evolved so radically that transformation and movement is now literally embodied within the techniques rather than it being an inspiration.
It has also become more colorful, maybe more optimistic. It's also much more collaborative now.
Where do you get your inspiration from? How do you stay continuously inspired?
Inspiration comes from many different disciplines. I don’t necessarily take inspiration from fashion. It really comes from science, artists that I know or collaborate with, biology, dance and architecture is a big source of inspiration. Music, as my partner is a musician. Sound in general. I find a lot of inspiration reading, I read a lot of books.
What do you consider to be the greatest motivation behind your work?
Widening the vision of what fashion is, what fashion can be and what it can go towards. I think we're living in a very fluid world in which a lot of our communal vision is expanding and fashion has become very commercially driven.
A lot of the intersections between art and fashion are hard to find and I think that's what the beauty of couture really expresses. That deeper layer of why we are dressing ourselves and exploring who we are.
It's the very fundamental questions of life and who we are that we can actually express through this very personal form of art.That's why I'm in fashion.
What is the most difficult material you have worked with? Can you tell us about the challenges that you had to overcome?
One of the most difficult materials we've worked with was made in collaboration with Jolan van der Wiel, a dutch artist working with magnets.
We worked on a two component material in which we used iron powder and we used magnets to grow their structures, which was a very beautiful way of creating, because it was a collaboration with nature.
A very simple force of magnetic field that shaped our final details. The process of finding the right balance between chaos and order was very delicate.
"You have to be comfortable with making mistakes. That's the only way that you can really move forward."- Iris van Herpen
What is the one material that you’d really like to work with, or explore the possibilities of using?
There is one material that I've been looking at for many, many years and I still haven't been able to put it into the collections. It's this invisibility cloak which bends light. It sounds very sci-fi but it actually already exists. It's patented so it's not on the commercial market.
It makes whatever is behind it visible, it creates the illusion of full transparency. I've always been fascinated by sculpting the body and that means being able to add and take away.
I think adding is one thing, but really taking away parts can really transform the human figure even more radically. I think it will be possible in maybe a few years
What is your best advice for new designers starting out in the industry?
One advice I would give to anyone starting their own business or label is to not overthink things and also not to become a perfectionist.
Even though I think this is within all of us, I'm a perfectionist, but I know how much it has also limited me and has limited my process. There is definitely quality in it, but it can very easily stop you in experimentation and also in pushing your own limits.
I think we live in a society where there is a lot of social pressure, how to be this perfect version of yourself. The only way that you can successfully build something is also by trial and error. You cannot know the exact right things to do in the coming 10 years. You have to be comfortable with making mistakes.
That's the only way that you can really move forward. It's that simple, but it's really hard. I'm an over-thinker and I'm in my head too much. So that's why I'm giving that advice. Stop thinking sometimes, just do and then you go a lot faster.
Look 21 SS20 Sensory Seas
Look 20 SS20 Sensory Seas
AW21/22 EarthriseGo to slide 1Go to slide 2Go to slide 3Go to slide 4
A Met Gala fitting with designer Iris van Herpen.I’m