Iris van Herpen, a Dutch sculptor of dresses at MAD

parisdiaArt, Fashion1 Comment

Dress and coiffe  “Frozen Falls”, collection Syntopia, 2018, collection Iris van Herpen

It’s definitely been a Dutch week in Paris with the inauguration of Dutch photographer Viviane Sassen‘s show at MEP and  the Iris van Herpen exhibition at MAD by Queen Maxima of the Netherlands and Brigitte Macron. The extraordinary 39 year old fashion designer is known for using avant-garde material to sculpt her dresses, and the show explores the place of the body in space and where clothes fit within their environment. 100 pieces of couture dialogue with contemporary artworks, music, and botanical elements like corals or fossils. It is Olivier Gabet’s last exhibition at MAD  (he left for Le Louvre a year ago) which he discussed with  Cloé Pitiot, the curator, as soon as she arrived at the Museum. I had noticed her excellent work in the Simone Pheulpin two years ago. She has done a terrific job again.

Raised as a ballerina and in the countryside in the little village of Wamel, Iris van Herpen (b. 1984) has developed a very free vision of the body and clothes. She trained at Alexander McQueen‘s in London and opened her own house in Amsterdam in 2007 at 23! Four years later she joined the Chambre syndicalee de la Haute Couture in Paris. Many of her dresses are already in museum collections and are closer to sculptures than to a garment. Her strength is to work with other artists and scientists, and to use  eco responsible techniques and materials. In 2010, she presented her first 3D printed dress which is part of MAD’s collections. Her first large exhibition took place at the Groninger museum in Northern Netherlands in 2012.

Iris van Herpen with Julia Koerner and Materialise, 2012, Atlanta, High Museum of Art

Water and Dreams start the first of the nine sections of the show with the dress “Water” and a silver sculpture “Nautilus” by Belgian artist Wim Delvoye. The couturier is curious of all universes and finds her inspiration in architecture and design, science, botanics and mysticism. Flowers inspire her organza dresses where the body is constantly on the move, the result of her collaboration with high level parachutists or sea divers. Urchins and corals, spiders, illustrated in XIX th century prints lead to teh invention of hybrid creatures .

Dress and necklace, “Crystallization”, 2010, Groninger Museum

After the deep sea ocean which inspired “Sensory Seas”, we discover “Incarnated skeletons” with the dress Aerology, made of liquid iridescent silicone applied to a laser cut mirror film with syringes. It is presented with a glass organza cape.  “Cosmic Trip”, and “New Nature”. Each section is more fascinating than the other with many illustrations which influence her sculptures like this skeleton of a python which lent by Deyrolle. The dress “Dichotomy” presented towards the end of the show is made of thin white silk stripes printed on wavy black silk panels which are sewn together layer by layer, creating the illusion that the dress is moving backwards when it is worn. It is inspired by Suminagashi, the Japanese technique of marble ink drawings. There are many videos showing the dresses in action but thanks to exceptional mannequins, they already look wonderful on their stands.

Arachne bustier dress, collection “Meta Morphism”, 2022

The way the show is built reminded me a bit of Christian Dior who was so involved with the designers of his time. The ravishing Iris van Herpen was dancing through the rooms with her aerial figure. And one felt at the heart of scientific discoveries as well as artistic creativity. Do not miss it.

Skeleton of a python from Sebae, Collection Deyrolle, Paris

MAD, until April 28, booking is mandatory.

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One Comment on “Iris van Herpen, a Dutch sculptor of dresses at MAD”

  1. This is an amazing show. I wish it were coming to NY! I remember when Iris Van Herpen was starting out and designing fabulous lighting with feathers and other natural elements. She has an astonishing imagination and technique.
    Thank you, dear Laure, for writing about this.

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