Writing about Iris van Herpen, one can find oneself mired in the technicalities of her creations. There’s computer programming and physics and alchemy behind each one; they’re complicated to make and just as difficult to explain. Better is to think of her work as art pieces, with each dress a canvas and the model who wears it the frame on which it’s stretched.
This season van Herpen collaborated with American kinetic sculptor Anthony Howe, whose pieces are powered by the wind. His spherical Omniverse sculpture had pride of place in the Élysée Montmartre venue. The designer said she was compelled by the way its arching vertebrae, spinning on a curving axis, simultaneously expand and contract. Her finale dress was made in the image of Omniverse, with rotating wings constructed of aluminum, stainless steel, and feathers. For the show, Van Herpen explained, the spinning was mechanized, but outside in the wind the wings would twist just like Howe’s kinetic sculptures. It was spectacular but in a performative way.
What’s so interesting about this collection is the way that even the pieces without Howe’s input were kinetic. They positively vibrated. Van Herpen achieved this in part by utilizing the Japanese ink-on-water technique of suminagashi; it created a print of lines, which she heat bonded to Mylar and laser cut in contrapositive ways. See what we mean about complicated? There were many other compelling treatments besides, including the same “glitch” laser cutting that yielded Broadway mogul Jordan Roth’s arresting Met Gala look, only here she did it on silk duchesse painted with erotic flowers. Picking up on Howe’s work, Van Herpen’s theme for the season was nature and the interconnectedness of its systems. A pair of other glitch dresses looked animal spotted. Suffice to say the collection earned its moniker: Hypnosis.