Iris Van Herpen at her AW22 Couture Show on the occasion of her 15th birthday

Of course, these ideas of transformation and technology have long been embedded in Van Herpen’s work, since she first graced the Paris Couture Week program in 2011 with her oscillating sci-fi inspired designs. central to the construction of her pieces, which involve complex 3D printing techniques and innovative new materials.

This season, these include hi-tech biodegradable materials made from algae and leftover cocoa bean husks, as well as a silk made from banana leaf. “The materials are very forward-looking, but with a natural twist,” explains Van Herpen, adding that upcycled materials are also present (for example, the designer has re-used recycled ocean plastic as part of an ongoing collaboration with Parley for the oceans

By using this textile, Van Herpen hopes to inspire other designers to use more sustainable materials in the future. †[The work] we do with these materials is not exclusive to us; these materials are also available for other brands,” notes the designer. “A very important part of the solution is collaboration; we need to think more as a community.”

Van Herpen also sees opportunities for a more sustainable industry through the use of digital technology. “We all know that fashion as an industry needs to change. There is a big problem with overproduction,” she says. “With couture we only create what customers want, but the Metaverse can help ready-to-wear brands to display their collections digitally and monitor what customers want. This could greatly reduce production.”

Van Herpen was inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses and the way multiple identities can exist in the digital and physical world.

Daniele Oberrauch / Gorunway.com

Her 15th anniversary collection also included innovative new materials made from algae and leftover cocoa bean husks.

Daniele Oberrauch / Gorunway.com

While Van Herpen is always progressive in her approach, the designer is working on a new retrospective for the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris next year, allowing her to take stock of what she has achieved so far. “It really is like a time machine, going through all the collections, inspirations and collaborations,” she recalls. “It feels very special to be able to do that.”

One of her proudest achievements is that her designs have been acquired by some of the best museums around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Royal Ontario Museum and the Groninger Museum. †[Seeing] the museum world embraces my work in a different way; it gives a lot of meaning to the work,” continues Van Herpen.

As for her hopes for the next 15 years? “My main focus is on showing an alternative within fashion of how to think, how to make, how to create, how to collaborate – I think it’s more important than ever,” she concludes. “I hope to be an example that you can be successful even if you are not the greatest. And maybe you [can have] a greater effect from that decision.”

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