IRIS VAN HERPEN INTERVIEW for /-
As we have discussed here many times the emergence of digital print a few years back opened up a door to new possibilities of layers between layers in the play of multi faceted surfaces and structures. Textile designers ran ahead pushing the boundaries of woven fabric introducing a vibrant space for innovation alongside technological advancement, the breaking down and building up of new surfaces, which in turn fed back into silhouette and garment construction. Dutch designer Iris Van Herpen has very quickly established herself at the forefront of these new options, blurring the lines between textiles and wearable sculptural art forms, creating structures that fully explore the space in and around the body, moulded plastic, pleated,twisted, folded fabrics and sliced and spliced leather defy gravity and conformity of silhouette. /- put a few questions to this new maverick of internal/external space. Interview after the images.
Describe what you do?
I’m a fashion designer. My designs stand for a reciprocity between craftsmanship and innovation in both techniques and materials, with the intention of re-evaluating reality.
I shape shift and work around questionable concepts to create elegance with a new identity. For me, fashion is a way to express and underline individuality. It’s an art form with a clear goal; to please our insides with our outsides.
The essence of all my designs is expressing the character of each unique woman. I accentuate the shapes of the feminine form to combine femininity with performance and exclusivity. I focus on quality of innovation, not quantity, speed or trends. I use craftsmanship and observation from the past with concepts and materials inspired by the future.
How did you come to be doing this?
I studied Fashion Design at ArtEZ Institute of the Arts. I learned to go beyond the existing rules; I learnt that normal rules don’t apply for me. I’ve always had the need to express myself, to make my ideas into reality. Humans are one of the most interesting things for me. So designing for, and being inspired by the female body is very logical to me.
How easy or hard is it?
Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s hard. Like all good things. The feeling of freedom that designing gives me makes me happy. To be able to show my vision in the language of fashion is the nicest thing, it comes naturally to me.
What I do find difficult is the speed of today’s fashion industry; it diminishes the energy and love that should be put into fashion design.
Is the process from idea to product or output a changing one, or a routine one?
It is constantly changing. In every collection I use new materials, new techniques. Therefore my work and its process changes as well.
Is there always an audience/ character/ market in mind, an external audience?
No, I believe that if I create the product well, it creates its own audience. Not the other way around.
Explain the relationship between art/creativity and industry, can the two co-exist? Is successful work diffused work?
Yes, the two need each other. There is not one with out the other. There isn’t a code for successful work. Totally arty or totally technical products can be successful, but it’s their fusion that makes product stronger.
Is there a defining line between you the individual/ designer and the audience/market/output?
My work is quite diverse. As well designing high fashion, I do work for dance productions, operas and art-projects. All of which are aimed at a different audiences. My diversity is in the diversity of my audience.
Who or what are your influences, heroes, idols, muses, irritants?
I am not inspired by or influenced by any of the above. I admire many people around me, but not people I don’t know, they are not real to me. People close to me are all mixed into one big inspiration source in my head and heart.
If money wasn’t an issue what would you do/produce/create or not do?
There are artists I would love to work with across different industries such as music, film and art. I would do crazy collaborations that are not possible now because of money.
Recently you show-cased your Couture collection in Paris, what were the concepts behind it?
The concept of my collection is inspired by magnification and excesses, which is a result of our digital age that is skillfully promoted by the media and eagerly swallowed by the general public. The public, consciously or not, is willing to surrender to an addictive escapism of constant amusement. My collection focuses on two elements; the visualisation of megalomania’s darker cult side of how people can think things are bigger than they actually are and its eventual implications in the future. I also wanted a crossover between gods and leaders of the past and the future, to visualize the glare of entertainment and it’s larger-than-life seduction. The sculptures of the American artist Kris Kuksi have also been a source of inspiration. His work is characterized by a predilection for the grotesque and bizarre, while displaying a serenity and spiritual aesthetic, which takes place in a sort of parallel world. A great deal of the collection has detailed craftsmanship, using old (forgotten) techniques, along with newly developed materials, such as rapid prototyping. The combination of craft and technology is crucial to me because it indicates the tensions between new technology and redundant traditional techniques. This is not a tension I hope to resolve, but while using high technology to design clothes, I also want to make room for craftsmanship. The use of traditional crafts along with the use of innovative and exceptional materials gives me the ability to mold both past and future fashions together into something new. This is a recurring theme in my work.
Is there an emotional, physical, mental backdrop to your work, what gets you motivated work wise?It is partly my own instinct and partly exploration of new possibilities that drives me. Consciously I do not a feel emotional, physical or mental backdrop, but I am sure it is there unconsciously. I believe it is better left unconscious. I am not going to think about it.
If you were to study a subject which is related to your practice but could inform your work what would it be?
I would research deeper into the rapid prototyping. It is a technique that is used in architecture and 3d design, but not really in fashion. I’ve developed a rapid prototype for the body and I am developing new ones for the Couture show. I do the sketches and technicians do the computer aspects for me. I do not have the knowledge or the skills for that. I would love to be able to do it myself, it would give me more independence and freedom when designing.
If you could do something else what would it be?
I would do the same as what I do now. Seriously, I would not want to do anything else. I only want to keep on changing the way I work and the way I find inspiration. I like to work within different fields around me, like dance, opera, film, accessories, etc. There are many things I want to explore but always within the context of creating fashion.
Interview by /-, illustrations by Dasha Selyanova and Maureen Campbell.