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Iris van Herpen wows audiences with floating models & sculptures

An art exhibition or a fashion show? Dutch designer Iris van Herpen blurs the line with her Hybrid Show.

The fashion world is buzzing about Dutch designer Iris van Herpen. “This is the natural next step for me to really show what I mean,” the designer said about her latest Hybrid Show at Paris Haute Couture Week 2024. Viewers were left in awe as they witnessed her first four aerial sculptures, heralding a new era of visual artistry for the Maison.

Iris van Herpen Hybrid Show Paris Haute Couture Week 2024

It’s not just her couture that resembled sculptures, but real sculptures showcasing Ms. van Herpen’s creations suspended in the air that captured the attention of enthusiasts. It is her entry into the art space.

Iris van Herpen Hybrid Show Paris Haute Couture Week 2024

Adding to the surreal show were five life-size ‘sculptures’ that featured her Haute Couture gowns. Incredibly, five models, seemingly fixed on canvases, showcased these five creations.

Iris van Herpen Hybrid Show Paris Haute Couture Week 2024

One of the gowns featured pearls embellished on a transparent, filigreed structure, molded by a heat gun into glass-infused organza. Another showcased an ethereal pattern of constructed lace fused with floaty silk, reimagining a kimono as a bronzed dress with intricate pleats and folds.

Iris van Herpen Hybrid Show Paris Haute Couture Week 2024

Planned over the span of a year, the show lasted 45 minutes. The concept is even older as Ms. van Herpen stated how it has always been her dream. “This show really is a hybrid performance. There are living performers doing the installation, and it will be physically intense,” she explained.

Iris van Herpen Hybrid Show Paris Haute Couture Week 2024

Considering the usual length of fashion shows, this was quite long. But it was worth every minute. Fashion and art enthusiasts will certainly be talking about this for years to come. Conceived as two pairs, the four large-scale artworks feature an array of innovative techniques on tulle surfaces, suspended and stretched via steel tubes.

Iris van Herpen Hybrid Show Paris Haute Couture Week 2024

Tulle, a favored material synonymous with classical ballet costumes, also serves as the basis for most of Ms. van Herpen’s couture looks.

Iris van Herpen Hybrid Show Paris Haute Couture Week 2024

Ms. van Herpen’s two monumental sculptures, Weightlessness of the Unknown and Embers of the Mind, also displayed at the show, embody the harmonious synchronicity between the creative process and nature’s inherent rhythms. Describing these pieces as “self-portraits of her inner world,” Ms. van Herpen intricately translates the beauty and chaos of ideation and experimentation into ambiguous representations of renewal and destruction.

Iris van Herpen Hybrid Show Paris Haute Couture Week 2024

Upon closer inspection, fragments of painted silk meticulously hand-stitched to a tulle base reveal cyclonic compositions, with lava-like textures achieved through countless layers of oil paint, reminiscent of Kazuo Shiraga’s gestural impasto technique.

Iris van Herpen Hybrid Show Paris Haute Couture Week 2024

These ethereal, floating forms echo the spirit of Abstract Expressionists such as Joan Mitchell, while invoking the eerie, otherworldly essence of Hieronymus Bosch, whose influence lingers deeply within Ms. van Herpen’s imaginative landscape.

Iris van Herpen Hybrid Show Paris Haute Couture Week 2024

The Ancient Ancestors extends Ms. van Herpen’s homage to nature by drawing inspiration from the sea. This sculpture is a direct response to recent findings by French biochemist Emmanuel Farge and his team at the Institut Curie, who uncovered that the first marine organisms developed their sensory abilities by physically detecting the motion of the ocean.

Iris van Herpen Hybrid Show Paris Haute Couture Week 2024

“Western thinking has long been dominated by an anthropocentric perspective, a worldview that positions humans as separate from and superior to nature. This paradigm has led to significant environmental degradation and the increasing biodiversity loss,” says Ms. van Herpen. The artworks, thus, celebrate nature’s power, urging audiences to rethink their relationship with the planet and the need for collective change.

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