Recently we had a chance to speak with Iris Van Herpen about her latest collection, future plans and affects of Covid-19 on the industry. See the interview bellow.

How do you think Covid-19 will effect the fashion industry both long-term and short-term?  How do you see the impact of Corona crisis on the general perception of fashion? Do you believe everything will just go back to normal after Covid-19, or how do you see it will be?

Short term the Covid-19 is putting the fashion industry in a limbo- a silent world that stopped producing and is floating in between the old world and the new world.  Fashion was iceskating on thin ice, and the end of the fast fashion system, spring time for the ice, was already in sight. The cracks were everywhere. The Covid-19 made the whole industry swimming. It has to find new land – and fast fashion will become slow fashion.  Short term, brands will produce less collections a year, less products, less shows, alternative marketing. Longer term, the pandemic will influence both the consumers as the brands themselves radically. The values of fashion are shifting. Its really interesting when talking to the young fashion consumers,  buying a sweater or a dress is not only about creating identity and beauty, today buying is a message to your planet, your health, the health of others and the life of the generations after us. More then ever before young people grow up with a feeling of responsibility towards the generations  after them, their children. What you buy today is directly influencing whether your children will have a planet. Its a burden, and a reality at the same time , and this will move the fortunate people that can spend on luxury and fashion more and more, to buy responsible from slow fashion brands.

How do you spend your Quarantine time and are you still able to create while being quarantined?

I am working still but alone with my partner, instead of in my atelier. I miss my team and the creative process with them. I am still working on new collection but its a lot harder and slower as the material experiments cannot really happen. 

But I am sketching a lot and draping, and these new creations that are growing inside my mind show me that the future is always near. They steer me forward with excitement, confident for a new world to bloom again.

Tell us about the inspiration and design of your latest collection shown during Haute Couture shows in Paris earlier this year.

Being in quarantine now, the last show in Paris feels like a dream. The energy of the atelier, this incredible group of bright minds and creatives together, that are all working together to

form our dreams into the textures and materials, its alchemic.  And the recent process was very exciting because we realized some techniques and movement, that I had in mind for a long time and did not worked out earlier. I found inspiration in the art of the Spanish neuroanatomist Ramón y Cajal and the deep seas and ecology of our oceans. 

Cajal researched our central nervous system in microscopic detailing and drew his revolutionary findings, which are incredibly delicate anatomical drawings that are art but also important scientific documents. I was moved how seamlessly he merged science with art. Other inspiration came from the deep sea, which have always been a fascination to me but i never really managed to capture the extreme transformative power and movement of these watery living paintings. I started researching the Hydrozoa, a class of delicately branched sea-life organisms that to me look like aqueous fabrics, like layers of living lace. So in the collection I wanted to hold a microscope over these two delicate worlds, to design metaphorical mazes of sensory waves.

What makes this collection different from any of your previous collections?

Cajal’s anatomical drawings were revealed in the ‘Labrynthine’ technique; 3D lasercut silk dendrites were heatbonded to blossoming leaves of black transparent glass-organza, to then be hand-embroidered onto  lasercut pearlescent exoskeletons.  And The 'hypertube'  technique was 3D printed from a single-lined web from white silicone thread, that is printed onto black silk-chiffon, twisting down the body. Both techniques were developed for this collection specifically and was a beautiful progress technically. For he ‘Hydrozoa’  technique, cellular aquarelles of dark purples and turquoise were oil-painted and multi-layered into hundreds of transparent lasercut PetG bubbles. The glass organza halos we digitally printed, heatbonded and then hand-stitched into voluminous splashes. The file-work of each layer is drawn to hang upwards, blooming aquatically with each movement, like living coral. This is the closest to the transformative ‘liquification’ of a dress,  that we have ever been able to get. 

What is your favourite new technique that you learnt and added do your designing process.

The ‘Morphogenesis’ technique that we have been develloping with long term collaborator, close friend, and professor Philip Beesley. This look is carved by thousands of white-screen printing mesh layers. 3D twisted vortex models were created in Rhino, numbered and sliced into 3mm distance, to then be cut on the KERN lasercutter with a triangulated grid of chevron-holes. Grasshopper scripts smoothened the processes of lofting, slicing and nesting. Each layer was embellished by hand with a grid of minuscule transparent chevrons, creating infinitely flexible forms that expand and contract around the body.

What is in your planning for this year and how will Covid-19 effect that?

The collaborations we were doing are still possible to happen and continue, which is great, its all through skype/zoom now which works nicely and we are working on two solo exhibitions and a book. The Couture show in July in Paris is unfortunately cancelled but we are making a new collection and a large VR experience from the collection so that a much wider audience can experience the collection real scale and three dimensionally. I am very exited by that and I hope in future everybody will be able to experience the delicacy, dimensionality and texture of all the designs much more intimately then a small flat screen. The small size and the two dimensionality just does not translate the full emotional embodiment. Each time someone sees the designs up close for the first time, its a similar respons; this is so much more detailed and its ‘alive’. 

What is your favourite painting and has it inspired you for any of your work thus far?

Wauw, that is a difficult one. First that comes to mind is the Garden of Earthly Delights painting from  Hieronymus bosch. My whole family comes from s’Hertogenbosch so I grew up knowing his work well and it keeps on fascinating me how powerful, feraless for its time,  timeless, and transcending his vision was.

 Lastly, as the HCPFW in July has been post-poned for now, will you still be releasing a collection in July, perhaps in a different way and if so how?

We are working on the new collection. We have actually already started working on the July collection before the pandemic started. As we are a slow fashion company,  we develop a new collection over 6 months full time with the team,  to develop all the materials, techniques and the final garments. We are still continuing the process but from home, so it all goes a lot slower.  We cannot start working on the final garments until the team is back in the atelier. So it will depend on when the Dutch Government- the atelier is in Amsterdam- will advice on that. I highly doubt we will be able to finish the collection already for July, but we aim to release the collection and the VR experience in September/October.

Timotej Letonja