On November 7, the High Museum of Art of Atlanta launched its first exhibit of fashion design, featuring the works of Dutch designer, Iris Van Herpen. At a mere 31 years old, Ms. Van Herpen has been quietly, as is her demeanor, setting the world of fashion design on its collective head. Her designs are created at the place where fashion, science technology and design all collide, and she is known for her fearless use of technology and pushing the boundaries of the materials to create fashion design. I like to say that her designs are created from materials other than textiles. Think about that – materials other than textiles. Of course, some textiles are included in various designs, and certainly as part of her ready to wear line, but so many of her fashions are made from truly unexpected items such as umbrella tines (see her Chemical Crows collection from 2008), steel wool or created using a 3D printer.
Ms. Van Herpen grew up in a small village in the middle of Holland called Warmel. She says that she was not interested in fashion at a young age, but rather in ballet and dance. Her childhood home didn’t have a television, so she spent many of her formative years doing the things children are supposed to do, dancing and playing. When Ms. Van Herpen started high school, she had relocated to a large city in Holland and became aware of clothes and fashion, and how the clothes that she wore project an image and could give her confidence. She actually began to make some of her own clothes and realized she loved working with her hands and different materials.
Ms. Van Herpen attended the ArtEZ Institute of the Arts in Arnheim, the Netherlands, focusing on the field of fashion. For her, fashion represented the perfect medium, as she could work with her hands and use her understanding of the female body in motion, gained from her years of dance and ballet training. During her time at ArtEZ, she interned with Alexander McQueen and Claudy Jongstra (a Dutch artist known for creating art pieces and architectural installations from hand felted material). Ms. Van Herpen started her own label in 2007, and was invited to join the haute couture calendar, which means showing exclusively in Paris twice a year, in 2011.
Iris Van Herpen: Transforming Fashion at the High Museum of Art features 45 of her most provocative designs from 15 of her collections, beginning with her Chemical Crows collection in 2008, offering High Museum guests a full retrospective of her work. This exhibit also features a gallery dedicated to the materials used in certain designs contained in the exhibition, and allows guests to touch and feel the various materials, their weight and consistency.
This exhibit is co-curated by Sarah Schleuning, the High Museum’s curator of decorative arts and design, Mark Wilson, chief curator of the Groninger Museum and Sue-an van der Zijpp, curator of contemporary art at the Groninger Museum. The exhibit is open at the High Museum until May 15, 2016. Following its tenure at the High Museum, it will travel throughout North America, including stops at the Ace Museum (Los Angeles), Cincinnati Art Museum, Dallas Art Museum, Grand Rapids Art Museum and the Phoenix Art Museum.
Here is a promotional interview that Ms. Van Herpen gave to the High Museum.
I am proud to have been part of the Friends of Iris, who provided critical funding to bring this exhibit to the High Museum of Art. It has truly been a labor of love. I am a huge fan of Ms. Van Herpen’s work and will feature certain individual designs, explanations and other information regarding Ms. Van Herpen and her designs in future posts. She truly is transforming fashion.
My Dress: Iris Van Herpen (found at Sloan Hall in San Antonio, TX). Ms. Van Herpen is also wearing one of her own designs.
Photography: CatMax Photography, Atlanta GA