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Iris van Herpen

Fall 2017 Couture


Iris van Herpen

Fall 2017 Couture


BY Katharine K. Zarrella

July 3, 2017

This season marks Iris van Herpen’s 10th anniversary, and since launching her line a decade ago, the Dutch designer has defied convention, proposing new ways to create and consider fashion with each of her conceptual shows and looks. Naturally, this season was no exception. 

Before I get into the garments, let’s discuss the show itself—though “performance” would probably be a more apt noun. As editors settled into their seats, they were asked to blackout their phones—a seemingly simple task, but one with which far too many audience members struggled. The fact that so many individuals couldn’t separate themselves from their glowing screens was at once amusing and disheartening. But I digress. 

Once (most) phones were turned off, tarps were removed from water-filled tanks that were arranged throughout the space. Inside were the members of Between Music, a group of Danish “underwater artists” who provided a surreal, live soundtrack for the show while submerged. 

The sounds they produced were haunting. They seemed like noises that might have echoed throughout a still-forming earth at the dawn of time—primitive, but melodic. 

Between Music, whom van Herpen discovered last year with the help of her musician boyfriend, not only enhanced the show—they inspired it. Dubbed “Aeriform,” the outing explored the qualities of and relationship between water and air.

It makes sense, then, that there was a lightness and liquidity to this outing. While the garments were all made through complex processes—lasercutting, heat bonding, hand pleating, and braiding were all employed—they floated down the runway and transformed depending on the light and the angle at which you were viewing them. 

Most pieces were constructed with undulating lines that recalled rippling water. 

The palette was quiet and ethereal—white, black, grey, and silver. Materials ranged from suede and Swarovski crystal to cotton, velvet, mylar, tulle, and organza.

After the show, van Herpen told me that she thinks modern couture should be both wearable and aspirational. There were examples of both here. Feather-light pleated organza gowns could easily make a red-carpet appearance on a (somewhat daring) actress or musician, while other designs were pure works of art that celebrated van Herpen’s techniques and vision.

The finale dress, a collaboration with architect Philip Beesley, was an example of the latter. It resembled a cloud, which I suppose one could see as a combination of water and air. It comprised laser-cut metal lace made to look like flowers, and it swayed and bounced as model Soo Joo Park walked.

When asked about the experience she hoped she created for showgoers, van Herpen replied, “To me, it has been a very emotional journey, and I hope it was the same for the audience.” She was speaking of the Fall 2017 Couture show, but the same could surely be applied to the last 10 years. 

During a season that has been somewhat confused due to a battle between past and present, tradition and innovation, it’s refreshing and reassuring to see the work of someone like van Herpen. The designer never skimps on craft or handwork, but still manages to find new, innovative ways to create clothing. Here’s to the future of couture. 


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