Iris Van Herpen Couture Fall Winter 2013 Paris

Taking in an Iris van Herpen collection requires a little suspension of disbelief, as the designer continually engineers a path forward into a future where fabric will no longer be the be-all, end-all of couture, and garment creation as a whole. Of course, 3D printing and novel fabrics have become the talk of town in recent weeks, with features on the publicly accessible facilities making the rounds of mainstream press. For the latest installment in the ongoing conversation on innovation, this year’s ANDAM finalist was once again inspired by the organic world and its wild wonders.

And wild it was, as a flurry of precise cuts sliced into thick bronze fabric gave the impression of a whorl of leaves. An armored dress displayed an intriguing nubbly texture, as though made out of latex, and recalled work by the artist Tzuri Gueta. Rather than extending out of the body, her structures seemed to cut close to it, as if drawn in protection. Towards the end, Van Herpen played with protrusions and subtractions on the surface of a latex-looking dresses. Viewed from afar, the patterns these form had something of lace – as perhaps influenced by her exhibition in the Cité Internationale de la Dentelle et de la Mode in Calais.

More than ever before, there was an element of wearability introduced here that bridged the research and concepts that the Dutch designer has been working with and their application in a more approachable setting. Explored a-fresh through her first ready-to-wear launched in March, along with a necessary democratization of technical know-how, her work breaks down the barriers between garment and art piece.

But in her strange and wonderful universe, what to make of the explosion of feathers from which peeked tiny avian heads, or from the thicket that shimmered forth between visually distinct groupings? In this regard, the collection seemed to lack the coherence of earlier collections, as if the designer tethered on the brink between continuing to explore the limits of material and form through her couture, and evolving to a different, less abstract but no less elaborate game. There is no doubt that Van Herpen has still plenty of fuel to continue innovating but in trying to cover so much at once, she risks being stranded on a road to nowhere.

- Lily Templeton

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