Back in 2011 Runway Passport interviewed Iris Van Herpen for our blog. She is still one of our number one inspirations, had the foresight to use 3D printed materials in 2011, create dresses made of “water”-esque materials and is on her way to becoming a fashion icon of our generation.
Interviewer: Maddie Raedts
Photographer: Giusy de Ceglia – http://www.giusydeceglia.com/
CAN YOU TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOUR STUDIES AND INTERNSHIPS?
I studied for four years at the Artez Art Academy for Fashion in the Netherlands. That was partly interesting and partly boring as well. I really needed a second life next to academy life, the city and the people.
I created an evening and weekend life of crazy distraction to find inspiration, because it was not the environment and people for me to find inspiration at all. It all felt boring and too goody goody for me at that time. So physically I was there but I wasn’t fully present in my mind. However, I learned a lot there both technically and about myself. During my studies I did an internship at Alexander McQueen which was a good experience as well.
I learned a lot about working with special materials, craftmanship, researching a concept,etc. After that I did an internship at Claudy Jongstra. There I also learned a lot about how to work with other materials than usually used in fashion and about to think bigger than fashion because she mainly works within architecture now. She started in fashion, then she did a lot for films and now she is primarily in the field of art, architecture and interior.
DID YOU ALWAYS HAVE THE DREAM TO BECOME A DESIGNER?
No, not consciously at least. When I was little I wanted to become a dancer for a long time.
YOU DID AN INTERNSHIP AT ALEXANDER MCQUEEN. WHAT WAS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT THERE? WHAT DID YOU LEARN THE MOST FROM IT?
The moment of the show, I was so lucky that I could watch the show in Paris.To see the pieces down the runway after I worked so hard on them was magical. Like they became real…came to life. I learned a lot about materials, about research and about craftmanship. And I learned that it is really hard work to create something unique.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR WAY OF DESIGNING?
Within my design process the normal rules don´t apply. My way of designing changes from time to time. I started moulaging (Moulage is a fashion design technique where the designer fits or molds the fabric directly on the model or dressmaker dummy.) a lot after experimenting, then i drew my designs sometimes as well. Sometimes I draw a part of it, and part of it i moulage. Sometimes I draw 3D around the mannequins, sometimes I design on the computer, sometimes it is just in my head and I make a pattern of it. But in the end all different ways of designing lead to the same essence: my reciprocity between craftsmanship and innovation in technique and materials to express the character of a unique woman. And I design to extend the shape of the feminine body in detail. So my way of designing changes from time to time, but my core or essence stays the same.
DO YOU THINK YOU CREATE MORE FASHION OR MORE ART? WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE COMBINATION AND TRANSITION OF FASHION AND ART? IN WHICH WAY(S) IS IT THE SAME AND IN WHICH WAY OTHERWISE?
I see my work as much fashion as I see it as art. Part of the fashion world is a form of art. The biggest part of fashion is the commercial side, it is about mass production which makes fashion became part of our throw away civilization. But the essence of fashion is much, much more and the meaning of it is different for everybody (same as art). For me fashion is about channeling the philosophical debate through my creative process itself – as if expressing the journey and the search for answers with conceptual pieces of fashion which are constantly chasing conclusions that will never be caught. To me that is the whole point. And the notion of art is as wide and vague as the notion of fashion in the broadest sense of the word. Art and fashion are both a personal related expression of the time, mind and experience.
I think between the creation process of art and fashion there is not that big of a difference for the creators. Most fashion designers are really related to art in many ways. But the difference is bigger in the experience of the product. When somebody wears a jacket, they will hardly ever realize the creation process, inspiration and concept behind it. That is subservient to its purpose. With art the purpose is more about the creation and the concept. So the biggest difference lies in the purpose and therefore the experience of it as being art or not.
The biggest parallel between fashion and art is the creation part of it; the creator´s inspiration translated into a concept and re-evaluating the way we look at things.
DO YOU THINK YOU’LL EVER MAKE TRULY COMMERCIAL PIECES?
That depends on what you think is truly commercial. In my eyes yes, but definitely within my own way and with my own personality.
YOUR CONCEPTS ALWAYS SEEM TO GO ABOUT AN UNTOUCHABLE SUBJECT MADE VISIBLE. WHERE DO YOU FIND YOUR INSPIRATION?
I find my inspiration everywhere and anywhere. It is never that I see something around me and that suddenly there is a new dress in my head. My inspiration is my life and the lives around me, it’s about worlds in my head. They are untouchable because it is mostly about another way of experiencing and seeing things. I can amaze myself about really anything.
THE MATERIALS IN YOUR DESIGNS ARE VERY INNOVATIVE AND INSPIRING. I’M GUESSING YOUR NOT GOING TO THE TEXTILE FAIR. WHERE DO YOU FIND YOUR MATERIALS TO WORK WITH? AND HOW DO YOU GET YOURSELF ABLE TO WORK WITH NEW AND STRANGE MATERIALS WHICH ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE FOR CLOTHING?
I find the right material through a good research. Going through the internet, through my contacts, through the library etc. Nowadays there are no limitations in physical borders, so I get my materials from all over the world. Working with new materials is a matter of doing. If I think too much about it, I get stuck. I just have to do, experiment and not be afraid. And then I find out what works and what does not.
If it is really difficult or when it seems impossible I ask artists or other professionals for advice or help.
YOU HAVE WORKED WITH SOME 3D PRINTED MATERIALS. ARE YOU PLANNING TO GO ON WITH THIS INNOVATIVE MANNERS OF WORK?
Yes, I am amazed and even more inspired now about the possibilities of this technique after working with it . The best thing about the future are all the parts that we don’t know and I definitely want to explore as much as possible.
WHAT IS YOUR GOAL FOR THE FUTURE?
To keep on doing what i do now, on a higher level.\
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT DUTCH FASHION VS FASHION IN THE REST OF THE WORLD? WHAT MAKES IT STAND OUT – NEGATIVES AND POSITIVES?
Conceptually it is very strong and unique, technically it is a bit old fashioned, safe.
SO FAR NY, LONDON, PARIS AND MILAN HAVE BEEN SO DOMINANT AS FAR AS FASHION WEEKS GO- DO YOU THINK THAT IS CHANGING?
Not in the short term, but the economic centers of the world are shifting so it is possible that in the long term, for example the Asian Fashion Weeks end up taking over in the end.