Iris Van Herpen: The Alexander McQueen Of Tech Geeks

Iris Van Herpen’s Fall/Winter 2011-12 collection combines traditional hand-sewing techniques and rapid-prototyping to stunning effect.

The fashion commentariat is proclaiming Iris Van Herpen the next Alexander McQueen. With Capriole, her Fall/Winter 2011-12 collection, it’s easy to see why. Revealed at the hyper-exclusive Paris Couture Show this summer, the 27-year-old Dutch fashion designer’s line packed the runway with so many showstoppers — from a tube dress that looked like it was frozen in ice to a frightening minidress crawling with slithery, Medusian coils — it could’ve knocked Anna Wintour’s sunglasses right off her helmet head. As one blogger put it: “Ladies and gentlemen, I think we just found our next fashion legend. HO. LY. SHIT.”


By manipulating technology, she tests the limits of fashion.

The fashion industry is, of course, excitable and fickle. As a wise woman once said: In fashion, you’re either in or you’re out (yeah, I went there). But Van Herpen is onto something fresh and of the moment, and saying she’s in and she’ll stay that way doesn’t feel like an overstatement.

Her trick is to manipulate technology to test the limits of fashion. Generally, she makes her pieces by combining rapid-prototyping and traditional sewing. For instance, she’ll cut strips of plastic, using a selective laser sintering machine, then arrange them into a garment by hand. In Capriole, she partnered with architects Isaie Bloch and MGX to research and develop five new works that fuse the old techniques with the new. You can see the results in the clothes above — though “clothes” isn’t quite accurate here; they’re more like sculptures with models hanging off of them — which manage to pair the theatricality of McQueen with a computer geek’s soul.

Even if you don’t give a jot about high fashion, this stuff is worth paying attention to. Digital technology is already shaping the industry, whether you’re talking about digitally printed fabric or 3-D printed shoes. It’ll only grow more prominent. In Van Herpen, we get an exciting sneak peek of where the rest of the fashion world is headed. Let’s just hope that Medusa dress stays on the runway.

[Images courtesy of Iris Van Herpen; hat tip to Yatzer]

About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D.