At the end of the 2000 animation movie “Titan A.E.,” the hero recovers a device that transforms what was once a cloud of asteroids into a humanly viable biosphere. This process of terraforming an environment to mimic our Earth was at the heart of Iris van Herpen's Fall. Underlined by a soundtrack that could have well been the bone-deep echo of this giant device's mechanical heartbeat, just as the heat and fire elements that permeated this collection were the by-product of geo-stellar collisions.
"The touch of a garment is important,” van Herpen explained backstage. "When I imagine a silhouette, I also have its texture in mind." The show started with interesting and unthreatening silhouettes that seemed Iris-lite variants. A skirt with a waffle texture, a fitted jacket in a grey moiré or a liquid column sheath all triggered curiosity. Their surfaces seemed to call to the hands for a more tactile discovery. But where other designers would treat their technique as a black box, there is nothing about her process left unshown.
Developed with Aleksandra Gaca, one fabric is woven flat then steamed to take its final three-dimensional form. A stainless steel weave hid in plain sight under the NASA-enabled colorings usually seen on deep space photography, burnished by hand. Habitual collaborator Philip Beesley lent a hand, resulting in a pièce de résistance composed of Necker cube patterns laid flat against the body that bloomed out into a honeycomb of flowers. As improbable as it sounds, you could see the kinship between this and the textured pattern of a blouson, along in-roads of textile development. "I try to create a balance between ready-to-wear and couture," she added, fingering a hand-burnt fabric in organic acid hues. "The same material is used for pieces that will be in stores."
As van Herpen moves further into ready-to-wear — this was by far the collection with the most wearable items — her textile research becomes increasingly reminiscent of Issey Miyake's work, although she delves much further into the possibilities between technology and handcraft. That mélange of natural and man-made is unique to van Herpen and, despite its technological component, feels like the true descendant of the hallowed history of haute couture.
Earthlings may not yet have a grasp on the technologies for planet-scale terraforming, but this particular specimen has so far managed to harness enough to create stellar collections that could well change the fashion biosphere.