In a dazzling display of innovation, the exhibition “Iris van Herpen: Sculpting the Senses” was ceremoniously inaugurated at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (MAD) in Paris. Featuring unconventional materials like mylar, acrylic, silicone, banana leaf fiber, eco-leather, and more, the retrospective showcases the groundbreaking haute couture creations of the remarkably young designer, Iris van Herpen.
At just 39, Iris, hailing from the Netherlands, has earned her own retrospective at MAD, highlighting her extraordinary career. Born in 1984, she studied art at a university in Arnhem before working with Alexander McQueen and eventually establishing her own house in Amsterdam in 2007.
Her journey took a pivotal turn in 2011 when, at 27, she joined the Chambre Syndicale de Paris, marking the beginning of a love affair with the City of Light. Her hypnotic and technologically advanced collections debuted in Paris, captivating audiences with their beauty and uniqueness.
“Why Paris?” Iris reflects, “Paris is the heart of haute couture. It’s the history of haute couture, and it’s also its future,” emphasizing her deep connection with the fashion capital.
Iris van Herpen‘s fashion is an ever-evolving, technologically driven art form, blending 3D printing, chemistry, dance, performance, and unusual materials to create a truly unique interdisciplinary language. Her biomorphic creations appear almost alive as if they move independently to clothe the models. A stark departure from fast fashion, her ultra-rare haute couture is primarily seen on concert stages, red carpets, and in art films.
While known for her avant-garde use of materials, Iris is equally comfortable with traditional haute couture fabrics like silk organza, duchess satin, and tulle. One striking example is a PETG (thermoplastic polymer) and glass organza dress from the “Sensory Seas” collection worn by Lady Gaga.
Speaking about the exhibition, Iris notes, “I’ve been working on this project for two years. It’s an incredible honor; this place is so iconic. I’m very proud to be here. Technology and nature both shine through in my work. Technology is part of nature, and nature and technology can have reciprocal influences, positive or negative. I try to focus on the positive aspect.”
The exhibition ingeniously places Iris’s diverse looks alongside artists, life forms, and shells that inspired them. Nautical and architectural neo-conceptual sculptures by Wim Delvoye engage in a visual dialogue with Iris van Herpen’s Nautilus mini-dress, replicating a shell structure. Notable pieces include the gothic-style Cathedral dress, made in collaboration with Isäie Bloch, and the Radiography dress, displayed alongside Enrico Ferrarini’s R-Evoluzione statue.
When asked if she sees herself as an artist or a fashion creator, Iris asserts, “Both, I can’t separate these two activities. I believe fashion can be a form of art capable of transcending spectators. It’s an element that is often forgotten. My work is very focused on human metamorphosis. I think fashion and art have the power to change our view of the world.“
The “Iris van Herpen: Sculpting the Senses” exhibition is open at MAD from November 29, 2023, to April 28, 2024, offering a captivating journey into the transformative world of this extraordinary designer.