Spring 2017 Couture
January 23, 2017
• Iris Van Herpen is an haute couture sorceress. Her shows cast spells on all who are lucky enough to experience them, and her laser-cut confections leave onlookers completely hypnotized.
• In addition to being a feat of innovation in construction, Van Herpen’s Spring 2017 Couture outing was a study in optical illusion, drawing the eye this way and that in a wave of black and white.
• Titled “Between the Lines,” the collection featured collaborations with architect Philip Beesley, who helped make the expandable laser-cut mylar fabrics, and German artist Ester Stocker, who dreamt up the show space—a completely black runway with jagged white lines that recalled what you might see on a heart monitor. You couldn’t tell at first glance (in my case, I couldn’t tell until I tripped over one), but some of these lines were actually raised structures that jutted out of the floor. As my seat mate, Vanessa Friedman, put it, the runway was like a “minefield.”
• “[Stocker] builds installations that play with two and three dimensionality. I’ve been doing the same in my collection, breaking down patterns and building them up again,” Van Herpen said backstage. “Also, by focusing on the gaps in between my patterns, I start losing the pattern itself. That’s what’s tricking your eye.”
• It’s worth noting that Van Herpen is—and has always been—all about finding new ways to create, present, and consider couture. This outing was a clear continuation of that mission and, as the show notes stated, it challenges “us to ‘mind the system, but find the gaps.’”
• Models began to walk out in clear, textural, rubbery looks—first adorned with a white pattern, then a black one, seemingly representing positive and negative, light and shadow, good and evil.
• This first duo of dresses recalled stingrays or jellyfish, and wiggled as the models walked. They (being the dresses, not the models, naturally) were made with Van Herpen’s new technique, which employs hand-casted PU fabrics that are then hand-painted through injection molding. In addition to being a couture sorceress, Van Herpen is the discipline’s mad scientist, too.
• Movement was a particularly fascinating element of this collection. Another pair of gowns were crafted from laser-cut squiggles that vibrated like a slinky as the models wove in and out of the runway’s digital glitch-inspired white outlines.
• But it wasn’t all about synthetics here. Silks and tulle came into play, too, and were manipulated, cut, and sculpted into elegant exoskeletons.
• Elsewhere, a rubber material was fractured and attached to fabric in the form of a mosaic. This was the case on the finale dress, which boasted a huge, flower-like collar. Actually, it reminded me of an ethereal iteration of a dilophosaur’s frills (you know, that spitting dinosaur from Jurassic Park).
• This bewitching collection also happened to be Van Herpen’s most wearable to date—the garments seemed to easily caress and move with the body. When asked whether or not this was a conscious decision, Van Herpen replied, “The making of a collection is very intuitive to me. It’s not about is this going to be wearable or not?” Even so, it was a clear triumph.