Text by Anna Battista
Architecture deals with one fundamental issue, looking at how buildings can confront the question of human existence in space and time. Buildings therefore relate to the language and the wisdom of the body, but, you could argue, so does fashion. While the history of fashion features architects à la Gianfranco Ferré who turned into fashion designers, in the last few years there has been a completely new approach to the fashion and architecture connection. Designer Iris Van Herpen developed for example a project with Dutch firm Benthem Crouwel Architekten , moving from Jan Benthem and Mels Crouwel’s project for the renovation of the Stedelijk Museum. Her Spring/Summer 2011 designs also included pieces inspired by the works of architect, artist, sculptor and product designer Daniel Widrig.
A few days ago at Paris Haute Couture Week, the designer strengthened her connections with architecture but also with digital technologies through a small but well executed high fashion collection that injected some much needed architectural futurism into the world of Haute Couture.
Entitled “Escapism” the collection included dynamic designs – dresses, jackets and tops accessorised with headdresses by Stephen Jones – made out of flexible yet dense lightweight meshwork, multiple diagrids created by geometric evolutions and involutions and complex 3-D forms.
Some of the pieces included ammonite-shaped motifs in technological materials, anemone-like alien structures, globular masses and tentacles of fringes. This radiant geometry of forms – based on digital design and digital fabrication but characterised by intricate surface elaborations – displayed echoes of Daniel Widrig’s “Cloud Like”, “Soft Fold” or his iconic polyamide or laser-cut Plexiglass structures such as “Roundish” and “Binaural”, and explored notions of dynamism and perception while also looking at the vital force within specific materials.
Zoot Magazine: Were you excited about showcasing your first Haute Couture collection in Paris?
Iris Van Herpen: I was very curious and excited at the same time! I love Paris and its architecture and it was great to be able to present my collection in a museum, with that casino pa natet old monumental feel all around us. Couture is the expression of fashion as a form of art and I find it very interesting to look for that balance within my work.
Zoot Magazine: There is a bit of architecture, sculpture and digital fascination in your new designs, what inspired them?
Iris Van Herpen: I was inspired by artist Kris Kuksi (www.kuksi.com ) and the world changing all around us into a sort of secondary digital world, surrounding us like a layer and transforming us and the way we entertain ourselves. We sort of fluctuate in two worlds, the old and the new, the natural and the digital one. |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
Zoot Magazine: In the last few months you have collaborated with architectural Dutch firm Benthem Crouwel Architekten and also with architect and designer Daniel Widrig: do you ever feel like an architect when you create your designs?
Iris Van Herpen: I do not feel like an architect when I design. After working together with architects I actually saw the differences between the world of fashion and architecture. Projects designed by firms such as Benthem Crouwel are huge, there are so many things to take note of and they involve a million of practical restrictions. Architects and fashion designers work with very different purposes and the design process and the essence of collaborating is totally different for an architect and a fashion designer. Yet this is exactly the main reason why I find it extremely interesting collaborating: my world and the world of the architects I work with are almost opposites, but the process of creating together generates inspirations.
Zoot Magazine: Will we ever see you at the Venice Architecture Biennale with a project tying in fashion and architecture?
Iris Van Herpen: Well, everything is possible! I am fascinated by architecture but also by many other disciplines, so it will depend on the way some of my collaborations evolve.
Zoot Magazine: Do you sketch or design on the computer?
Iris Van Herpen: I use different design processes and I alternate between them. I usually have an idea in mind about the concept and the silhouettes and for some of them I start with sketching and try to work in the traditional way. A few designs begin with a sketch but then they end up looking very different from the original draft. I also do a lot of research about materials and techniques and, after that, I do a lot of experimenting, looking at different possibilities. After that I start the moulage phase – then the final design is ready and the making process begins. For the rapid prototypes the process is very different, I start with a sketch by hand, then I sketch a lot on the computer, still in 2-D. Then I move onto the next phase, the interaction with the architect Daniel Widrig: he translates my 2-D sketches to a 3-D file and we find a balance between my design and the world of the architect. At this point the design changes once again, because of gravity, materials and other technical restrictions.
Zoot Magazine: Did you enjoy working with Stephen Jones for the headpieces that accompanied your collection? What was your reaction when you first saw them?
Iris Van Herpen: I enjoyed working with him a lot. Stephen is not only a master in hat design but also a lovely man. His work, as well as his personality, are big inspirations for me. I was amazed when I saw the headpieces: they are all unique in shape and material and also display a combination of technology and craftsmanship.
Zoot Magazine: Would you like one day to create the costumes for a futuristic film set in a digital-scape à la Tron Legacy?
Iris Van Herpen: I guess Tron Legacy is a bit the standard when it comes to what we have in mind for our future. I have a different view, but I would love to be part of a good film with a modern view of our future!
Photography: © Michel Zoeter