Iris van Herpen had an intuitive appreciation of fashion and art as a youth. Her first passion was actually dance. It was when she attended the Preparatory Course Art & Design at Artez during her high school years that she became particularly interested in designing clothes.
She graduated in 2006 from the fashion design department of Artez. The department has a strong international reputation and lists notable graduates as Viktor & Rolf, Alexander van Slobbe (SO; Orson+Bodil), and Lucas Ossendrijver (Lanvin Homme). One year after graduating, Van Herpen launched her own fashion label. Iris van Herpen creates women’s wear collections. Her designs require every time a unique treatment of material or the creation of complete new materials. For this reason, Van Herpen prefers interdisciplinary research and often collaborates with other artists.
From the beginning of her career Iris van Herpen’s talent has been singled out as very promising and it has grown strong over the years. It has been recognized through awards, exhibitions, publications, and her guest membership of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture.
Van Herpen’s fashion designs always express an interest in other art forms, and in a general curiosity of the world beyond fashion. Her collaborations during the research and making process are exemplary for this, as are her innovative experiments with materials, techniques and technologies.
As every aspiring fashion designer at the art academy, Van Herpen learned to work with soft fabric. She quickly felt limited by fabric, as she wanted to build, construct, and sculpt with the materials of which she created her designs. This forced her, already early on, to experiment with other materials, and later on to develop materials that approached her concept the closest.
Taken this into consideration, it is not surprising that ‘sculptural’ is a term much used to describe her work, and, indeed, the designs can function very well on their own as sculptures, as several exhibitions on her work have proven. Yet, the designs remain clothes they are not wearable sculptures, because there is another essential aspect to be taken into consideration: Van Herpen’s love for the body in movement. The design is only realized in equal interaction with the body. Van Herpen’s designs follow, complete, and change the body and the emotions that accompany it, when simultaneously the body adapts and adopts the new forms. Movement is key. It is of decisive importance for the ultimate design how a moving body reacts on a piece of clothing and, vice versa, how a piece of clothing behaves when worn.
Van Herpen’s decision to explore the Rapid prototyping technology of 3D printing allowed her to be the first to introduce this technology in fashion, and to create astonishing designs with it. Van Herpen became fascinated with the endless design potential of 3D printing. In recent collections she further developed her prints by adding detailed handwork. She collaborates with the Belgian company Materialise NV for the printing of her designs.
The 3D prints only added to that other much-heard term to describe Van Herpen’s style: futuristic. Besides the use of new technologies, the term mostly refers to the appearance of her looks. What is very important to realize, though, is that her designs combine new technologies and diligent handwork. In fact, this is characteristic for all Van Herpen’s collections. Exactly this combination of handwork and innovative technologies brings Van Herpen to her edgy designs. She equally values techniques from the past and techniques and technologies of the future, because they have their own power and beauty that, when rightly combined, can be enhanced instead of being substituted by one another.