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FASHION Iris van

FASHION Iris van Herpen’s fashion awakening began in her grandmother’s attic — a little girl, running wide-eyed through a matriarch’s expansive collection of garments. One piece especially stood out. “It was lace and velvet, handmade, from the 1700s. I’ll never forget it,” says the Dutch designer. “Her attic was my dream place, where I explored dress from different periods and silhouettes.” It’s ironic that Van Herpen’s creative origins lie in fashion history, considering she is widely hailed as fashion’s leading futurist. A pioneer in sartorial 3D printing, she’s famous for her otherworldly couture pieces. “My grandmother’s collection helped me realise how influential time is on who we are, and how we express ourselves,” she says. The concept of time lies at the heart of Van Herpen’s work, which merges old techniques such as hand sewing and embroidery with cutting-edge technology. “By delving into the old craft, I developed a love of innovation,” she says. “They balance each other. I couldn’t make the garments I do now if I didn’t have the craft side of history. At the same time, it’s important to know new implementation. It feels natural for me to combine the two.” This philosophy translates into work that pushes the concept of couture forward. In 2012, Van Herpen became one of the youngest designers to be inducted into the Chambre Syndicale de Haute Couture. Unsurprisingly, her fanbase is composed of women with kindred spirits, such as Bjork, Lady Gaga, Solange Knowles, Tilda Swinton and Daphne Guinness. A Van Herpen gown isn’t just a decorative form of personal display. It’s a work of art in flowing handcrafted silk plissé, as in her voluminous, free-floating dresses for spring 2019, or hand-painted, hand-casted transparent polyurethane, as in her cocktaillength exoskeleton-like frocks for spring 2017. Throughout all of the technical feats, there is an unmistakable human touch. She explains her sew-it-yourself ethos: “My mum made clothes when I was young. I started doing this myself at the age of 14. At the art academy, I learned to do even more by hand, and hardly used the sewing machine. I was about craft, but I wanted to learn to do new things in a different way.” So she began to experiment with 3D printing in an effort to leave her comfort zone. It took her seven months to create her first piece. “The computer screen looks two-dimensional. I was so used to draping on a model with “MY PROCESS IS ALWAYS ABOUT MOVEMENT, TRANSFORMATION AND CHANGE” my hands, it felt strange,” she recalls. “But, after seeing the incredible amount of detail, I realised I could create structures that I could not possibly make by hand.” Part of the reason Van Herpen is hailed as a progressive is because 3D printing bears the promise of a more sustainable way of working in an industry notorious for its enormous footprint. 3D printing reduces waste by creating a custom garment that only uses the exact material needed. This is a completely different way of working from traditional garment-making, in which fabric is rolled out by the metre and then cut and sewn, leaving extra scraps to be thrown away. 3D printing also uses biodegradable plastic, whereas cotton farming consumes water at an unsustainable rate. “Awareness about how we start to reduce waste is growing. 3D printing is a good tool to help fashion become more sustainable. But in the end it’s about a big industry that needs to change,” she says. Van Herpen believes radical changes come from the ground up, rather than from conglomerates. “The younger labels are more flexible,” she says. “I hope the smaller voices become a bigger part of the industry. The last 50 years have been a wave toward globalisation and groups becoming bigger. For the variety of vision, it’s important to make space for new ways of looking at and creating fashion. That means more designer labels that are independent and able to survive.” In terms of her own future, Van Herpen is most excited by the opportunity that new printing techniques present – to manipulate time. She has her eyes set on 4D printing, a technique currently being developed at the likes of Harvard University and MIT. It allows advanced customisation of a complex garment to meet the specific measurements of the wearer’s body, and the look and shape of the dress can shift and change in certain circumstances. “4D printing is the next step in that you not only design your structure, but how it will transform its shape over time. It opens up a new world in which I can design colour and pattern but also design what it will do in time and what will trigger that change, whether it’s heat or water or anything you can imagine,” says Van Herpen. “I’m quite fixated by that, because my process is always about transformation, movement and change.” The little girl transfixed by her grandmother’s centuriesold velvet jacket would surely approve. PHOTOGRAPHY: PREVIOUS PAGE: ART+COMMERCE/SØLVE SUNDSBØ, THIS PAGE: PORTRAIT BY JEAN-BAPTISTE MONDINO 58 THE JAGUAR

Iris van Herpen (above) is a pioneer in sartorial 3D printing. Her otherwordly creations push the boundaries of couture and have won her many famous fans

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