Iris Van Herpen

Iris Van Herpen on How Space and Skydiving Became Her Unlikely Inspirations

Iris Van Herpen on How Space and Skydiving Became Her Unlikely Inspirations

Photography by Siermond & Nicholas Fols II
“She’s connected to nature, art and innovation,” says fashion designer and couturier Iris van Herpen of the woman she designs for. “But she also sees the value of material and construction.” And all of those trademarks are clearer than ever this season as she delivers a gravity-defying collection entitled Earthrise and accompanying film that is, quite frankly, mind-blowing. 
Photography by Siermond & Nicholas Fols II
Founded in 2007, the 37-year-old Dutch designer’s maison has since become renowned for boundary-pushing innovations in couture (her mesmerising FW19 collection where sculptural dresses moved in conjunction with the wind springs to mind) and have been worn by the likes of Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Naomi Campbell. By uniting the artisanal with multidisciplinary technologies, van Herpen explores elaborate techniques such as 3D printing, laser-cutting and digital fabrications in ways that had never before been seen. “I have a passion for craftsmanship,” she says. “There’s been a beautiful evolution of it throughout the centuries and it has an important place in our future.” 
Photography by Siermond & Nicholas Fols II
Working in collaboration with Domitille Kiger, a world champion skydiver, van Herpen places the art of the extreme sport at the forefront of the collection with meticulous construction and innovative fabrics. And the film? A luminous spectacle that climaxes with Kiger performing a choreographed skydiving routine in a van Herpen creation. “No one would see the parallels between haute couture and skydiving, but the connection is strong,” says the designer, describing how fabric and its movement is vital to the sport. “I wanted to dedicate this partly to Domitille and the incredible way she lives.”
Photography by Siermond & Nicholas Fols II
Ahead of the film’s premiere on July 5, Vogue caught up with the designer via Zoom from her Amsterdam atelier to discuss the new collection film, the crossovers with skydiving and haute couture, as well as her hopes for fashion in a post-pandemic world. 
What’s your earliest memory of fashion and what is it about the craft of couture that led you to practice it yourself?
“My grandma was a collector of garments, both modern and historic, stored in her attic. As a kid, I would go there a lot and transform myself into different worlds and feel the power of clothing. I also started working with my hands from an early age because my mum was making clothes.
“I’m drawn to both art and fashion. There’s a beautiful connection between the history and the future of fashion, which is what I try to bring with my work.”
Photography by Siermond & Nicholas Fols II
How did the collaboration with Domitille Kiger come about? What is it about skydiving that interests you?                                                                                                                            
 “I did my first skydive when I was 17 and it was an experience that never left me, so I followed the work of the world champion skydivers, such as Domitille. I’ve dedicated my life to shaping and draping fabric, and with Domitille, her life depends on the fabric unfolding in the right shape. I approached her and when she came to my atelier, we talked about the similarities of pushing our limits in our respective work. It was a beautiful match. Some people call skydiving a sport, I also see it as artistic expression.”  
Photography by Siermond & Nicholas Fols II
Where did the reference to space and Earth come from?
“It started from a 1968 photo taken [by Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders] from the perspective of an astronaut looking back at Earth from the moon. Like Earth, there’s a lot of greens and blues in the collection. The NASA archives have inspired a lot of it, as well.”
Photographed by Jenny Norin
You’ve got a knack for combining handwork, technology and sustainability — where does this come from?                              
“There’s no specific process, but my way of thinking is very interdisciplinary, so I like to work with people from different backgrounds such as architects, scientists and biologists. Craftsmanship can evolve to help us look at fashion in new ways and a big part of that, of course, is sustainability. It’s a slow, long route, but I believe in investing in it to take little steps forward.
“Last season, we started collaborating with [sea-protection campaign] Parley for the Oceans, which involved weaving plastic recovered from the ocean into an extraordinary super-fine, delicate fabric. This season, we integrated the fabric into multiple pieces, some full looks, too.”   
Photographed by Jenny Norin
What were some of the painstakingly difficult details to create this season?
“The main technique is delicately made from thousands of spheres in different size and colour gradients, which creates an optical illusion of movement and depth, and each circle is hand cut and has a tiny outline of one millimetre that is also cut and placed separately. Another was in collaboration with artist Rogan Brown, whose paper sculptures involve layers of fine knife-cutting, often based on scientific illustrations from nature. We translated his delicate technique into soft, wearable garments. These were the most challenging and time-consuming of everything we did.”
Photographed by Jenny Norin
What will the film look like and which collaborators were instrumental in bringing it to life? 
“We wanted to create this feeling of levitation. It was shot partly in France with Domitille skydiving, as well on top of the Dolomites in Italy. The film was directed by Masha Vasyukova, whose work I admire and have been following for a while, and she’s been part of the whole process since the development of the collection. Also, [Nepali model and musician] Tsunaina has a big part in the film, singing for us.” 
Photographed by Jenny Norin
What do you hope for the future of fashion in a post-pandemic world?
“The physical moment of sharing new creations is essential in fashion and that will not go away. But now there’s more space in the ways that designers can express a collection, both digitally and physically. It’s freeing and I hope we continue this freedom of expression.”
Read Next: 5 Things to Know About Marc Jacobs’s Exuberant FW21 Show
Originally published on Vogue.in

Cover Story: Celebrating Enduring Couture That Continues to Thrive in an Era Rocked By a Pandemic

Cover Story: Celebrating Enduring Couture That Continues to Thrive in an Era Rocked By a Pandemic

Just like a century ago, when haute couture persisted through world wars, it continues to thrive today in an era rocked by a pandemic – albeit forever changed.
Malika El Maslouhi wears dress, shoes, Iris Van Herpen; headpiece, Iris Van Herpen X Casey Curran; nail artwork, Iris Van Herpen X Eichi Matsunaga. Photographed by Thibault-Theodore for Vogue Arabia
If haute couture had a patron goddess, she would have to be Demeter’s daughter Persephone, who cyclically died only to be reborn. As long ago as 1965, when what Diana Vreeland termed the “youthquake” was rattling the planet, the New York Times noted that “every 10 years the doctors assemble at the bedside of French haute couture and announce that death is imminent.” Around the same time, French actor Brigitte Bardot rejected Coco Chanel’s offer to dress her because haute couture – the bombshell complained – “was for grannies.”

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Bardot’s snub was understandable. Haute couture had been predicated on “older, outdated ideas,” Schiaparelli’s creative director Daniel Roseberry says. Chanel was a hoary 82 and haute couture itself – a government-controlled appellation – was more than a hundred years old. Though the antecedents of the haute couturier go back to Louis XIV in the 17th century, the French profession’s true founding father was Charles Frederick Worth, who in the 1800s introduced such novelties as the designer label and seasonal live presentations.
Malika El Maslouhi wears dress, Alexandre Vauthier. Photographed by Thibault-Theodore for Vogue Arabia
Though, like a fairytale enchantment, the maison Worth lasted one century, it was the venerable master’s spawn – the fantasist Paul Poiret, the functionalist Chanel, the purist Madeleine Vionnet – who ushered haute couture into the modern age. Persevering through the first world war, the Spanish flu, and the Great Depression, the French couturiers not only dressed “tout-Paris,” but also exported hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of their coveted handsewn confections. “History teaches us,” Dior creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri observes, “that couture is extremely resilient and, above all, adaptable.” The second world war and the Nazi occupation of Paris, however, posed a nearly terminal threat to the industry. Vionnet’s vast operations closed permanently in 1939. Chanel shuttered her doors. Her rival, the avant garde Elsa Schiaparelli, escaped to the US. But the enterprising Lucien Lelong stayed open, defiantly thwarting Hitler’s grandiose scheme to transplant all of Paris fashion to Berlin or Vienna. So miraculous was the Lelong-orchestrated wartime survival of haute couture that in 1945, Diana Vreeland exhorted an assistant to return from Paris with a single fabric rose as evidence of the rarefied institution’s continued existence.
Malika El Maslouhi wears dress, Fendi Haute Couture. Photographed by Thibault-Theodore for Vogue Arabia
More than Vreeland’s handmade rose (probably from the fournisseur Guillet), what bloomed from the ashes of the second world war was a fecund garden of “women- flowers,” wrote Christian Dior, who founded his maison in 1946, all wearing sumptuous “skirts like petals.” Before long, the Dior empire accounted for three-fifths of all haute couture sales. The remainder came from the other fabled houses of haute couture’s post-war golden age – Fath, Dessès, Heim, Balmain, Griffe, Rochas, Balenciaga – whose workrooms were as intricately structured as their lavish dresses, and whose formidable directrices were as lofty as a ballgown’s price.
Malika El Maslouhi wears dress, Ashi Couture. Photographed by Thibault-Theodore for Vogue Arabia
Haughty personnel and intimidating invoices were just two elements of the old-school haute couture culture that drove legions of women in the 60s and 70s out of the storied salons and into brand- new, funky boutiques selling ready-to-wear. Yves Saint Laurent had initiated the pret-a-porter movement in 1966 with the opening of the first Rive Gauche store, on Rue de Tournon. Trendsetting shops, some as far afield as London and New York, soon usurped haute couture’s function as (in Viktor & Rolf’s words) “a laboratory of ideas and experimentation.” Predictably, by 1973, the doomsayers of Time magazine were reporting that the enterprise of haute couture was “breathing very hard.”
Malika El Maslouhi wears dress, Guo Pei Couture. Photographed by Thibault-Theodore for Vogue Arabia
As before, the rumors of haute couture’s extinction were greatly exaggerated. During the bullish decade of the 80s, Karl Lagerfeld revived the ailing Chanel empire with his cheeky reinterpretations of the house’s hallowed codes. And with a heady eleven francs to the dollar, nouveau riche Americans flocked to Paris on the Concorde, frenetically buying up whole collections and fervently embracing newcomer Christian Lacroix. Haute couture reclaimed its magical ability to serve – to invoke Roseberry’s metaphor – as a “love language” spoken between designer and client.
Malika El Maslouhi wears dress, Viktor & Rolf Haute Couture; earrings, Hugo Kreit. Photographed by Thibault-Theodore for Vogue Arabia
In the 90s, after a market crash, recession, and Gulf war had yet again incapacitated the industry, LVMH chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault played Prince Charming to haute couture’s Sleeping Beauty. Arnault’s ingenuity lay in transforming haute couture from an entity that served not just private customers, but a brand. A demographic even larger than Arnault might have calculated began participating in haute couture’s previously esoteric rites – viewing collections, judging them, sharing them, and buying spin-off, logo-emblazoned status items, via the proliferating digital platforms that propelled fashion into the 21st century.
Malika El Maslouhi wears dress, Viktor & Rolf Haute Couture; earrings, Hugo Kreit. Photographed by Thibault-Theodore for Vogue Arabia
Responding to the rapidly changing environment, the antiquated trade organization Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture morphed into the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode and safeguarded its future by modernizing its rules of admission, essentially unchanged since the time of Lucien Lelong. As a result, its roster of haute couturiers expanded from about 15 members in the early 2000s to 100 today. This updating of the bylaws has allowed many esteemed out-of-towners, such as Iris van Herpen, Elie Saab, Fendi (under Kim Jones’s direction), and Victor & Rolf to become “correspondent members,” and Guo Pei, with her new studio in Paris, and Christophe de Vilmorin, fresh out of design school, to become “guest members.” Rallying in the face of the pandemic and lockdowns this past January, 28 of the Fédération’s houses resourcefully presented collections during the three-day SS21 haute couture showings (albeit virtually).
Malika El Maslouhi wears Lion Vénitien Necklace, earrings in 18ct white gold set with diamonds, Chanel High jewelry. Photographed by Thibault-Theodore for Vogue Arabia
Paradoxically, rather than hamper designers, the limitations imposed by Covid-19 freed them to explore new formats and engage with artists in other media. “Covid forced us to break through traditional barriers and explore new ways of presenting our conceptual ideas,” say Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren from Viktor & Rolf, whose creations addressed sustainability as well as the need for a “lighthearted escape into fantasy.” And, just as Elsa Schiaparelli, in the 1930s, enriched her own work by collaborating with Leonor Fini, Jean Cocteau, and Christian Bérard, so the present-day couturiers overcame Covid-induced constraints by merging their imaginations with the aesthetic worlds of filmmakers Anton Corbijn (Chanel), Nick Knight (Valentino), Matteo Garrone (Dior), and Christophe Tiphaine (Schiaparelli). “Fashion has always been the realm of the imagination,” Chiuri explains, “So it is natural for me to turn to a film format to express my project through visual stories.” For Roseberry, whose sensual collection was cleverly compressed into an Instagram-friendly three minute, 52 second video, the goal was “to create a format and a way of showing the collection that really lets the viewer experience it.”
Malika El Maslouhi wears dress, headband, earrings, rings, Dior Haute Couture. Photographed by Thibault-Theodore for Vogue Arabia
The pandemic may have simply accelerated an inevitable evolution. Viktor & Rolf plans to “become more digitally focused, creating content that caters to each platform.” Elie Saab foresees a “mix between smaller, less hectic, live fashion shows and digital content.” Twenty-four-year-old Vilmorin, who gave birth to his brand during lockdown, doesn’t even see a need for “all that mise-en-scène and spectacle” of a runway event. Says Roseberry, “It’s a total reset.”
Malika El Maslouhi wears dress, shoes, Jean Paul Gaultier Haute Couture. Photographed by Thibault-Theodore for Vogue Arabia
No longer a resource-draining marketing exercise, haute couture – the ultimate “slow fashion” – now has the capacity to turn a substantial profit, as robust economies around the globe generate new clients, whose fittings might even take place through Zoom. “Covid has made people rush less and appreciate more the value of things,” Saab reflects. Among the freshly minted devotees of the most extravagant finery on earth are the very young, and – in a development that the sybaritic Sun King himself would surely appreciate – men. Fendi, Valentino, and Vilmorin all showcased their offerings on male and female models. As Ralph Toledano, president of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, stated, “It seems that there are no longer any boundaries to couture.”
Read Next: Editor’s Letter: Why Our May Issue is Dedicated to the Highest Artistries and Haute Couture
Originally published in the May 2021 issue of Vogue Arabia
DOP and video editing Cheyne Tillier-DalyPhotographer Thibault-ThéodoreStyle Lisa JarvisFashion director Katie TrotterHair Charlie Le MinduMakeup Annabelle Petit at Wise & TalentedNails Lora de Sousa Creative producer Laura PriorProduction Weird Fishes StudioProducer Réda Ait Retouching Curro VerdugoAnalog operator Maëlle JoignePainter Damien CacciaStudio assistant Tom KleinbergStyle assistant Francesca Riccardi Set assistants Antoine Dugrand Castaignede, Amin Bidar, Thomas JardinProduction assistant Adélina Bichet ElzeyModel Malika El Maslouhi at Viva Model

All the Highlights from Day One of Paris Haute Couture Week Spring/Summer 2021

All the Highlights from Day One of Paris Haute Couture Week Spring/Summer 2021

Read on for all the highlights and best looks from day one of Paris haute couture week spring/summer 2021.
Schiaparelli

Schiaparelli artistic director Daniel Roseberry is having fun – that’s obvious. His now signature surrealist jewels, grand draping and artistic ‘gilding’ was on full show once again for his latest spring 2021 couture offering: a 25-look collection of otherworldly pieces with an 80s underscore. If lockdown has left you a little soft around the edges, fear not – the designer’s fuchsia mini dresses and latex cocktail gowns carved out of muscular torsos are your fast-track to a burly body. It is, in fact, the body that seems to occupy Roseberry’s mind, whether his focus is on re-shaping something or artfully accentuating it with halo-like draping, spliced tailoring trimmed with ornate embellishment or trains of fabric hanging from arms, ears or the tails of a jacket. Wonderfully eccentric with an unnerving dystopian twist (Look 7 is straight out of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange), the collection is a trip down Schiaparelli’s fantastical rabbit hole – giant padlock bags included.
Iris van Herpen

Entitled Roots of Rebirth, Iris Van Herpen’s latest collection explores the symbiosis of modern technology and artisanal craftsmanship. At once strikingly beautiful and heartbreakingly melancholic, the designer’s creations tap into the current zeitgeist and our desperately flawed relationship with the natural world. Picture an entangled empire of fungi, reimagined as rust-orange tendrils on a sweeping evening gown, or capillary-like embroidery coursing through the body of a dress, giving it life and exquisite shape. Fitting then, that this was also Iranian-born singer Sevdaliza’s runway debut – an artist celebrated for her rawly emotional and often melancholic songs. Her look, a blood red gown with aggressive, fan-like chiffon framing her neck and arms, serves as a reminder of Van Herpen’s obsession with innovative cutting techniques and her unwavering ability to embrace the darkness in all its disruptive glory.
Dior

Maria Grazia Chiuri once again enlisted the help of Italian filmmaker Matteo Garrone to help bring her designs to life via a fairytale-like short film titled Le Château du Tarot. Inspired by Christian Dior’s love for the divinatory arts, the collection evokes the characters seen on tarot cards — particularly, a 15th-century tarot deck created for the Duke of Milan — with dramatic embroidered capes, brocade robes, delicate sweeping dresses, as well as a translucent veil that sits on top of a sequined dress. The iconic Bar jacket also has its own presence, as it features revisited curves, in the form of a black velvet suit. The creative director’s work along with the film is nothing short of an invitation to a mystical world, speaking to the power of fashion in aiding escapism and fantasies, at a time when things are seemingly bleak.
Read Next: Kim Jones Will Present His First Fendi Couture Collection January 27

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