Iris van Herpen

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Iris van Herpen
Iris van Herpen during the Haute Couture Spring Summer 2012
Iris van Herpen during the Haute Couture Spring Summer 2012
Born (1984-06-05) June 5, 1984 (age 30)
Wamel, The Netherlands
Residence Amsterdam
Nationality Dutch
Occupation Fashion designer

2014 ANDAM Fashion Award
2013 Golden Eye Award
2013 Dutch Design Awards, category fashion
2013 Marie Claire prix de la mode, best Dutch Designer
2010 Mercedes-Benz Dutch Fashion Awards
2010 Dutch Fashion Incubator Awards
2010 Dutch Accessory Awards
2010 Dutch Design Awards, RADO
2009 Dutch Design Awards, best product of fashion and accessory

2009 Dutch Media Awards
Labels Iris van Herpen
Iris van Herpen Official Website

Iris van Herpen (born 5 June 1984) is a Dutch fashion designer. She studied Fashion Design at Artez Institute of the Arts Arnhem and interned at Alexander McQueen in London, and Claudy Jongstra in Amsterdam. Van Herpen immediately caught the eye with notable shows. In 2007, she started her own label. Since July 2011, she is a guest member of the prestigious Parisian Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, which is part of the Fédération française de la couture. She participates in many international exhibitions and creates two collections a year.


Iris van Herpen had an intuitive appreciation of fashion and art as a youth. Her first passion was actually dance. It was when she attended the Preparatory Course Art & Design at Artez during her high school years that she became particularly interested in designing clothes.

She graduated in 2006 from the fashion design department of Artez. The department has a strong international reputation and lists notable graduates as Viktor & Rolf, Alexander van Slobbe (SO; Orson+Bodil), and Lucas Ossendrijver (Lanvin Homme). One year after graduating, Van Herpen launched her own fashion label. Iris van Herpen creates women’s wear collections. Her designs require every time a unique treatment of material or the creation of complete new materials. For this reason, Van Herpen prefers interdisciplinary research and often collaborates with other artists.

From the beginning of her career Iris van Herpen’s talent has been singled out as very promising and it has grown strong over the years. It has been recognized through awards, exhibitions, publications, and her guest membership of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture.


Iris van Herpen has collaborated with a number of artists from various disciplines, often on a recurring basis.

Artists/Architects: Philip Beesley, Benthem Crouwel Architects, Isaie Bloch, Irene Bussemaker, Carlos van Camp, Zach Gold, Bart Hess, Stephen Jones, Julia Koerner, Rem D. Koolhaas, Neri Oxman, Heaven Tanudiredja, Joost Vandebrug, Daniel Widrig, Jolan van der Wiel

Musicians: Beyoncé,[1] Salvador Breed, Björk,[2][3] Grimes, Lady Gaga, Joey Yung

Photographers/Filmmakers: Pierre Debusschere, Zach Gold, Nick Knight, Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin,[4] Geoffrey Lillemon, Jean-Baptiste Mondino, Todd Selby, Joost Vandebrug, Vincent van de Wijngaard

Choreographers: Nanine Linning, Benjamin Millepied

Special Projects: A Magazine, Daphne Guinness, Casey Legler, Tilda Swinton


Van Herpen’s fashion designs always express an interest in other art forms, and in a general curiosity of the world beyond fashion. Her collaborations during the research and making process are exemplary for this, as are her innovative experiments with materials, techniques and technologies.

As an aspiring fashion designer at the art academy, Van Herpen learned to work with soft fabric. She quickly felt limited by fabric, as she wanted to build, construct, and sculpt with the materials of which she created her designs. This forced her, already early on, to experiment with other materials, and later on to develop materials that approached her concept the closest.

Taken this into consideration, it is not surprising that ‘sculptural’ is a term much used to describe her work, and, indeed, the designs can function very well on their own as sculptures, as several exhibitions on her work have proven. Yet, the designs remain clothes they are not wearable sculptures, because there is another essential aspect to be taken into consideration: Van Herpen’s love for the body in movement. The design is only realized in equal interaction with the body. Van Herpen’s designs follow, complete, and change the body and the emotions that accompany it, when simultaneously the body adapts and adopts the new forms. Movement is key. It is of decisive importance for the ultimate design how a moving body reacts on a piece of clothing and, vice versa, how a piece of clothing behaves when worn.

Van Herpen’s decision to explore the Rapid prototyping technology of 3D printing allowed her to be the first to introduce this technology in fashion, and to create astonishing designs with it. Van Herpen became fascinated with the endless design potential of 3D printing. In recent collections she further developed her prints by adding detailed handwork. She collaborates with the Belgian company Materialise NV for the printing of her designs.

The 3D prints only added to that other much-heard term to describe Van Herpen’s style: futuristic. Besides the use of new technologies, the term mostly refers to the appearance of her looks. What is very important to realize, though, is that her designs combine new technologies and diligent handwork. In fact, this is characteristic for all Van Herpen’s collections. Exactly this combination of handwork and innovative technologies brings Van Herpen to her edgy designs. She equally values techniques from the past and techniques and technologies of the future, because they have their own power and beauty that, when rightly combined, can be enhanced instead of being substituted by one another.


    • HYBRID HOLISM – July 2012, Paris Haute Couture Week
    • The project Hylozoic Ground by the Canadian architect and artist Philip Beesley provided the inspiration for this collection. Hylozoic refers to Hylozoism, the ancient belief that all matter is in some sense alive. Beesley created a responsive architectural system that uses hylozoism in a quite specific way, that is, “we are working with subtle materials, electricity and chemistry, weaving together interactions that at first create an architecture that simulates life but increasingly these interactions are starting to act like life, like some of the ingredients of life”. His environment breathes, shifts and moves in relationship to people walking through it, touching it, and sensing it. Microprocessors invest that environment with a primitive or insect-like intelligence like a coral reef or a great swarm.[5] Van Herpen 3D-print for this collection is named the 'pythagoras tree' dress inspired by a Dutch book on drawings produced by a Belgian artist based on the Pythagoras tree (fractal).[6] Considering the level of detail (in repetition) of the fractals, the different level(s) of perception, their use in studying images, structures and sounds, the possibility of describing processes in time, etcetera, it fits Van Herpen's fascination like a glove, especially with regard to this collection.
    Iris van Herpen is intrigued by these kinds of possibilities for a future of fashion that might take on quite unimaginable shapes. Fashion that might be partly alive and growing, and, therefore, existing partly independent from us, which in turn allows for a new treatment by humans: instead of discarding the fashion after use, we cherish, value, and maintain it in its abilities to change constantly. Van Herpen’s translated this future vision in a collection that is highly complex and incredibly diverse in terms of shape, structure, and material.
Iris' design from the show
    • MICRO – January 2012, Paris Haute Couture Week
    • Inspired by the pictures that science photographer Steve Gschmeissner took using Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) technology, Micro zooms in on the world of microorganisms that is completely hidden from our sight. The pictures show specimens that are dead, dried, and chemically fixated to preserve and stabilize their structures. Van Herpen remains interested in the living organism. Her designs allude to armature, tentacles, cell structures, and plasma. Some seem moist others glow and move while being worn, coming to live on the body. For one design, the ‘cathedral dress’ Van Herpen introduced a technique referred to as mammoth stereolithography which refers to a 3D printing method. This 3D printed process is built slice by slice from bottom to top, in a vessel of polymer that hardens when struck by a laser beam.[7]
    • CAPRIOLE – July 2011, Paris Haute Couture Week
    • Iris van Herpen made her debut in Paris as member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture with this collection. Besides being a compilation of highlights from previous collections, this new collection also presented five striking outfits that evoke the feeling just before and during a free-fall parachute jump. A ‘leap in the air’ (the meaning of the French word Capriole) that Van Herpen once in a while takes to reset her body and mind. The five outfits are a reflection of the extreme feelings experienced during that jump. For instance, the dress consisting of serpentine forms made of black acrylic sheets, nicknamed the ‘snake dress’, evokes the mental state at the moment before the jump when, as Van Herpen explains, “all my energy is in my head and I feel as though my mind is snaking through thousands of bends”.[8]
    • ESCAPISM – January 2011, Paris Haute Couture Week
    • Escaping from everyday reality through addictive digital entertainment incites in Iris van Herpen not only feelings of emptiness but also associations with the grotesque, the extreme and the fantastic. This collection aims to capture both the exaltation of these addictions, like the disproportionate attention for celebrities (the ‘new heroes’) and its dark flipside, the never fulfilled hunger that is inherent to it. Another important source of inspiration were the exuberant baroque sculptures of the American artist Kris Kuksi. Dramatic bulging spherical shapes alternate with lace- and skeleton-like 3D-prints, and silver-grey fabrics that seem to reflect their own surface.
    • CRYSTALLIZATION – July 2010, Amsterdam Fashion Week
    • At the instigation of ARCAM (Architecture Centre Amsterdam) a collaboration was organized between Iris van Herpen and Benthem Crouwel Architekten. Benthem Crouwel’s design for a new extension to Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum had earned the nickname ‘bath tub’. This inspired Van Herpen to design a dress that would fall around the wearer like a splash of water, like being immersed in a warm bath, and to express in the collection the different states, structures and patterns of water.
    Noteworthy is that in this collection Van Herpen presents her first 3D-print that she created in collaboration with the London-based architect Daniel Widrig and that was printed by .MGX by Materialise.[9][10]
    • SYNESTHESIA – February 2010, London Fashion Week
    • Synaesthesia is a neurological condition that results in a combination of sensory perceptions. To underscore the hypersensitivity of the body, and to visualize this entanglement of sensory perceptions Van Herpen secured shiny metal foil on specially treated leather that generated a confusing visual effect without a steady fixation point.
    • RADIATION INVASION – September 2009, London Fashion Week
    • Radiation Invasion translates Iris van Herpen’s question of what we could do with our daily (over)dose of electromagnetic waves and digital information streams if we could see them. In these designs the wearer seems to be surrounded by a whimsical complex of wavy rays, flickering patterns, vibrating particles, and reflecting pleats.
    • MUMMIFICATION – January 2009, Amsterdam Fashion Week
    • Van Herpen became captivated with the macabre beauty of ancient Egyptian mummification and the intense devotion that surrounds the process. With techniques to swaddle, wrap and cover the body along with the typical geometric and graphic patterns of Egyptian mummies, she elaborates on the practice of the ancient Egyptians to create a new reality for their dead.
    • REFINERY SMOKE – July 2008, Amsterdam Fashion Week
    • The ambiguous character of refinery smoke, both beautiful and poisonous, inspired this collection. Van Herpen translated the elusiveness of industrial smoke into specially woven metal gauze. She turned metal threads into an extremely soft and pliable material. The metal kept its characteristic of oxidation and Van Herpen considers this inherent chemical process as (visually) reflecting the dual aspect of industrial smoke.
    • CHEMICAL CROWS – January 2008, Amsterdam Fashion Week
    • A group of crows living around Van Herpen’s studio triggered her association with black magic and alchemy. Crows are known for their intelligence, predilection for glittering objects, and are traditionally associated with secrecy and symbolism. Van Herpen shares with alchemists a passion for controlling and transmuting materials. As alchemists tried to turn base metals into gold, so Van Herpen has transformed in several designs gold-coloured ribs of 700 children’s umbrellas into shapes reminiscent of the movement of wings and feathers.
    • FRAGILE FUTURITY - July 2007, Amsterdam Fashion Week
    • Starting point for this collections was the fusion of animal instinct and human rationality. The resulting 'creatures/creations' of this combination reflected Van Herpen's view on the future: fragile, vulnerable and evolved. She experimented with forms and shapes of wings, horns, and snake prints.


TIME Magazine names Iris van Herpen's 3D printed dresses one of the 50 Best Inventions of 2011.[11]

  • 2014 ANDAM Fashion Award
  • 2013 Golden Eye Award
  • 2013 Dutch Design Awards, category fashion
  • 2013 Marie Claire prix de la mode, best Dutch Designer
  • 2010 Mercedes-Benz Dutch Fashion Awards
  • 2010 Dutch Fashion Incubator Awards
  • 2010 Dutch Accessory Awards
  • 2010 Dutch Design Awards, RADO
  • 2009 Dutch Design Awards, best product of fashion and accessory
  • 2009 Dutch Media Awards


  • Iris van Herpen. BAI Publishers, 2012. Monograph published on the occasion of the exhibition Iris van Herpen at the Groninger Museum (24 March – 23 September 2012). ISBN 9789085866237
  • Het Nieuwe Ambacht. Iris van Herpen en haar inspiratie. Centraal Museum Utrecht, 2011. Catalogue published on the occasion of the exhibition Het Nieuwe Ambacht. Iris van Herpen en haar inspiratie at the Centraal Museum (29 June – 9 October 2011). ISBN 978-90-5983-025-7
  • Quinn, Bradley. Fashion Futures. Merrell Publishers, 2012. ISBN 1858945631 ISBN 978-1858945637
  • Not A Toy. Fashioning Radical Characters. Berlin: Pictoplasma Publishing, 2011. ISBN 3942245027 ISBN 978-3942245029
  • Grolimund, Nathalie. Fast Forward: Fashion. Where Fashion Defies Function. ISBN 978-0-9830831-4-6 ISBN 0983083142 ISBN 978-0983083146
  • Hohé, Madelief and Georgette Koning. Haute Couture Voici Paris! WBOOKS, 2010. ISBN 9040076693 ISBN 9789040076695
  • Recht voor zijn raap. Stip 2010 en kunst nu. Centraal Museum and Fonds BKVB, 2010. Catalogue published on the occasion of the exhibition Recht voor zijn raap. Stip 2010 en kunst nu at the Centraal Museum Utrecht (19 June – 12 September 2010). ISBN 978-90-76936-25-3
  • Dutch Design Jaarboek - Dutch Design Yearbook 2010. NAI Uitgevers, 2010. ISBN 978-90-5662-755-3
  • Black: Masters of Black in Fashion & Costume. Lannoo Publishers, 2010. ISBN 9020988506 ISBN 978-9020988505
  • Jalink, Bert. Dutch Heights # 2. Award Winners Arts and Culture in the Netherlands. De Vrije Uitgevers, 2011. ISBN/ISBN 9789490529031


  1. ^
  2. ^örk-meet-fashion-designer-iris-van-herpen
  3. ^ "Roskilde Festival". Retrieved 2013-09-23. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Interview with Beesley". YouTube. 
  6. ^ Ernst, Bruno van, e.a. Bomen van Pythagoras, variaties van Jos de Mey. Aramith Uitgevers: Amsterdam, 1985
  7. ^ "Mammoth Stereolithography Video from Materialise". YouTube. 2008-12-17. Retrieved 2013-09-23. 
  8. ^ "Haute Couture". Iris van Herpen. Retrieved 2013-09-23. 
  9. ^ "". Retrieved 2013-09-23. 
  10. ^ "". Retrieved 2013-09-23. 
  11. ^ David (2012-03-09). "TIME Magazine names Iris van Herpen’s 3D printed dress one of the 50 Best Inventions of the 2011 | i.materialise 3D Printing Service Blog - watch us make the future (feel free to join in)". Retrieved 2013-09-23. 


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