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Iris van Herpen blends DNA engineering and early astronomy into couture

By Robyn Turk

Jan 21, 2019


Presented today at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Iris van Herpen's latest couture collection "Shift Souls" is an intricate blend of early astronomical discovery, recent biological advancement and aquatic art.

While the sources of influence seem to have very little in common, the Dutch fashion designer blended them into 18 remarkable haute couture looks characterized by dissected and voluminous layering rendered in a warm color palette.

"I looked at the evolution of the human shape, its idealization through time and the hybridization of the female forms within mythology," Van Herpen said in a statement. "The way imagination and the fluidity within identity change in Japanese mythology gave me the inspiration to explore the deeper meaning of identity and how immaterial and mutalble it can become within the current coalescence of our digital bodies”

More specifically, the Dutch designer collected her inspirations for her latest set of designs from early celestial cartography as well as its representations of mythological and astrological chimera.

Van Herpen also took note of modern advancements in DNA engineering, particularly the creation of human/animal hybrids called Cybrids, which are made through the fusion of multiple cell parts that result in a single cell that contains the nucleus from one species and the cytoplasm of another.

In the notion of Cybrids, Van Herpen interprets themythological dreams of humankind that existed since the dawn of civilization now shifting to the canvas of science. While looking at the use of mythology to interpret early scientific discovery, "Shift Souls" expresses the fact that a new scientific reality is upon us.

Van Herpen integrated a couple of silhouettes that emanate her various inspirations: a voluminous spheroid shape that unfolds vibrant patterns through translucent organza, called the Harmonia, and the Symbiotic volumes are made from gradient dyed silks that are multi- layered into sculptural shapes.

The Harmonia silhouettes are made using hand plissé, while the Symbiotic features use of fine 3D lasercut frame of PETG, mimicking the juxtaposition of early discovery and modern science from the designer's influences.

Some of the designs in "Shift Souls" use a "Galactic glitch" technique, in which cloud-printed silk is heat-bonded to mylar and lasercut into the finest lace of thousands of O.5mm ‘harmonica waves’, that optically distort the body.

While the thematic inspirations of the collection come from scientific discovery, the aesthetics turn towards New York-based aquatic expressionist artist Kim Keever. Through painting and photography, the former NASA engineer experiments with the idea of ephemerality and movement.

Van Herpen collaborated with Keever on vaporous colored clouds that are printed in translucent organza in her silhouette called Cosmica.

And for the final look shown in the haute couture collection, Van Herpen employed the help of another contemporary artist, Nick Verstand. The artist, known for his work in spatial audiovisual compositions, helped Van Herpen to subdivide the space using walls of materialized laser light, revealing a dreamscape of circulating clouds that encapsulated the visual themes of "Shift Souls."

Photos: Courtesy of Iris Van Herpen