Iris Van Herpen: Pushing the Boundaries of Fashion Design

Thirty-one year old Dutch fashion designer and couturier, Iris Van Herpen, is famous for her trade-off between revolutionary innovation in technique and materials and artistic dexterities. A complete paradox to the way she grew up – a small village exclusive of television, fashion or computers.

Iris Van Herpen “Crystallization” dress


Iris studied fashion design at ArtEZ Institute of the Arts Arnhem and subsequently interned at Alexander McQueen and Claudy Jongstra before launching her own label in 2007. She also merged with the Swarovski Collective (a support initiative) and is currently in her third season of this union, fusing Swarovski crystals into her designs.

It should come as no surprise that the term ‘sculptural’ is notoriously used to describe Iris’s work. Her early embracing of 3D printing technologies placed her in the forefront of introducing this know-how to fashion. Since this discovery, Iris has combined the use of innovative technologies with fine handwork to create a contemporary view on haute couture and truly set herself apart from her counterparts. In other words, she marvellously balances techniques from the past and techniques of the future to continually push the boundaries of fabric innovation.

“For me fashion is an expression of art that is very closely related to me and to my body. I see it as my expression of identity combined with desire, moods and cultural setting. In all my work I try to make clear that fashion is an artistic expression, showing and wearing art, and not just a functional and devoid of content or commercial tool. With my work I intend to show that fashion can certainly have an added value to the world, that it can be timeless and that its consumption can be less important then its beginning. Wearing clothing creates an exciting and imperative form of self-expression. ‘Form follows function’ is not a slogan with which I concur. On the contrary, I find that forms complement and change the body and thus the emotion. Movement, so essential to and in the body, is just as important in my work. By bringing form, structure and materials together in a new manner, I try to suggest and realise optimal tension and movement.”

Iris Van Herpen spring/summer 2015 collection

Iris works with an array of materials including leather silk, plastic, metal powder, velvet, and even liquid gas. More recently, she has also been experimenting with various techniques such as laser cutting, advanced computing and mechatronics engineering.

Iris is constantly inspired by the impossible. Her latest AW 2015 collection is probably the most literal manifestation of merging science fiction with science fact. She established new boundaries in terms of fabrications through a combination of the manufactured and the biological. A stand out piece was a delicate, fluid dress silk material made from a mixture of stainless steel and silk.

Iris Van Herpen fall/winter 2015 collection


Iris is endlessly pushing the boundaries in what she is able to achieve and for that reason is a truly inspirational designer that will leave onlookers amazed time and time again.