Dutch designer Iris van Herpen presented her latest Haute Couture collection, titled ‘Shift Souls’, on January 21st, 2019 at Musée des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
The collection was inspired by early examples of celestial cartography and its representations of mythological and astrological chimera. Van Herpen was particularly taken with “Harmonica Macrocosmica,” a star atlas by the German-Dutch cartographer Andreas Cellarius, published in 1600.
With the advances in DNA engineering and the first successful creations of human//animal hybrids called ‘Cybrids’, the mythological dreams of Humankind since the dawn of civilization are shifting to the canvas of science. While the scientific and ethical implications of “Cybrids’ are still unclear, this collection expresses the fact that this reality is upon us.
Additional inspiration comes from the artist Kim Keever, the aquatic expressionist based in New York who merges the disciplines of painting and photography. À former NASA engineer, Keever experiments with the idea of ephemerality and movement in large scale photographs of liquid clouds of colors. Van Herpen collaborated with Keever on translucent layered cloud dresses of his signature work.
The collection consists of eighteen looks with a concentration on dissected and voluminous layering, and a warm color palette of ochre, Nrian purple, and indigo pigments.
The Harmonia silhouettes are voluminous spheroid dresses that unfold vibrant patterns through translucent gradient-dyed organza that is halfwheel plissé-ed by hand. The ‘Symbiotic’ volumes are made from gradient dyed silks that are multi-layered into sculptural shapes by a fine 3D laser-cut frame of PETG to create hybrid bird shapes in dimensional color gradations that hover in symbiosis with the body like mythological creatures.”Shift souls’ hide and reveal anamorphic faces that smoke around the body in three-dimensional ‘wave drawings’, multi-layered and gradient-dyed silks are heat-bonded within frames of laser-cut mylar, creating surreal spectral anatomies. For the ‘Galactic glitch’ technique, cloud-printed silk is heat-bonded to mylar and laser-cut into the finest lace of thousands of O.5mm ‘harmonica waves’, creating a dance of quivering echoes that optically distort the body.
The “Cosmica’ looks are made from vaporous colored clouds by Kim Keever that are printed on translucent organza, to be layered into nebulous multi-dimensional prints, whose unfinished contours blur the body.
Cellchemy’ face-jewelry are 3D printed through high-resolution multi-material printer in collaboration with the Delit University of Technology. One-off pieces were developed through a generative design process based on a 3D face scan, by combining the color information with the 3D shape in grasshopper algorithm, a semi-arbitrary density structure was mapped from the face.
For the finale of the show, Iris van Herpen collaborated with contemporary artist Nick Verstand, subdividing the space using walls of materialized laser light, revealing a dreamscape of circulating clouds.
“A highlight of the show was a futuristic red dress with a multitude of laser-cut waves, creating a ‘dance of quivering echoes that optically distort the body.'”
“Other sculpturally-shaped looks offered a similar effect, featuring 3-D laser-cut detailing meant to give the illusion of mythological creatures. During a time when most designers are looking to previous decades for inspiration, van Herpen is looking onward to new galaxies.”
“Then there were the shoes.
Made from soft leather pieces, one of which wrapped around the wearer’s ankle, each pair had transparent plexiglass heels. Blocks of the material were infused with two colors of ink, which took four days to distill into molten colored clouds; then, the heels were carved by hand into undulating curves.
Unlike some of Ms. van Herpen’s previous footwear creations, often wedges that teetered on the fringes of fantasy to the point of impracticality, these shoes combined a strange beauty with a sturdy commercial clout.
Indeed, you know a designer is on to something when it’s the shoes you remember from a runway finale. Amid a swirling black and blue laser beam projection, precise lines of light traced through the vapors along the soles and heels of the shoes to create a glow-in-the-dark effect.”
“While her exoskeletons and crystalline structures have always felt far more visionary than the usual display of couture, their future as wearable designs seemed uncertain. By contrast, this collection, titled Shift Souls, expressed lightness through diaphanous silhouettes with hand-plissé volumes, soft patterning, and alluring body focus. This expression of femininity might translate to greater visibility for Van Herpen; and with two full days of shows to come, it set the bar high.”
“The show evoked winged forms and organic life, and was inspired by visual artist Kim Keever, who drops paint pigment into water. The arty setting was an appropriate backdrop for the sculptural creations that seemed to borrow from works housed at the Louvre, located hundreds of meters (yards) away.”
“Weighty stuff, but the delivery was ever ethereal, from the opening midnight-blue pleated bustier gown with curved wing-like sleeves, revisited in pleated and printed Op Art versions, to the cream dresses covered in concentric layers echoing a topographic map.”