As a trio of humanoids awaited their delivery, vacuum packed between two sheets of clear packing (an installation by Belgian artist Lawrence Malstaf), Iris van Herpen offered up another dystopian morsel for our consideration through her Biopiracy collection. As parts of the human genome are being patented, are we reaching a disquieting commodification of the human body. In short, are we still in possession of our own flesh, or will a corporation one day start charging us for its use?
Proposed in the context of her show, the silhouettes seemed alien, sharp edges protruding along the lines of the body, curling around the hem in organic geometries. Sleeves connected, web-like, to the body. Upon closer inspection, the fabrics revealed themselves to be of this Earth and time: goatskin with foil that resembles stingray, cut and assembled into raised strips under which were inserted small crystals that held the shape in place; Japanese changeant silk with a shimmering weft giving definition to the spider-web thin material; crystals inlaid in fabric and covered in webbing. A voluminous fur body extended down from an intricately detailed collar and shoulder.
While it’s easier for the eye to linger on the more salient, experimental elements of van Herpen’s work, there were here some proposals that will no doubt continue to attract retailers such as Le Bon Marché: a classically well-cut blouse and flowing skirt – in shimmering light tones – or the concentric rows of imprisoned fire opals glimmering on the hips of a straight-collared sheath will no doubt find themselves up for grabs. Throughout, Van Herpen also presented silhouettes that were of a couture nature, as she had not presented on schedule this past couture season, most strikingly a cupola made of glass beads encased in netting and a gelatinous bustier that trembled with every step.
After the show, as the press grilled the Dutch designer on the meaning of the artistic installation, fellow designer Rick Owens came to congratulate her. “I’ve been following what she does, and I’m excited to see someone who is so sharply focused and with an identity that is so unlike anything we have seen,” he said. “It’s intelligent, modern, technical. When they can do something that with finesse, I just want to celebrate it, so it’s a thrill to support that.”
Continuing down the path of rational experiment, the designer demonstrates, for those who doubted her, that she is in full possession of her creative path and commercial growth. Flesh and bone can be rent, but the mind and spirit remains inextricably Iris van Herpen.
Watch the show!