Electrifying Haute Couture

BeautifulNow April 23, 2013

Iris van Herrpen Voltage 1A dancer stands on a sleek sculpted column atop a pedestal, when suddenly—ZAP!—a bolt of crackling purple lighting shoots through the room and begins to gather and twist around his body. He is New Zealand artist Carlos Van Camp and he shows no fear, only grace, as he begins to move, teasing the top of a Tesla coil, with three million volts spitting and jumping over and around his limbs.

And so begins Dutch designer Iris van Herpen’s spring 2013 runway show. The collection, presented in Paris, explores the electricity of the body.

(Photo: Michel Zoeter)

Van Herpen has built an engaging brand by challenging herself with high-octane concepts and innovative materials throughout her career. Her fascination with art and the body began in her youth when she was a dancer, but her passion for fashion design was solidified when she attended the Preparatory Course Art & Design at Artez. In 2007, only one year after graduation, Van Herpen launched her own fashion label creating uniquely beautiful women’s wear collections. Since then, her innovations have granted her guest membership into the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture and, in 2011, Time Magazine named Van Herpen’s 3D printed dress one of the 50 Best Inventions of the year.

Van Herpen is compelled to define intangible elements. Her past collections have sought to embody the passing of time, the exaltation of addictions, and the intersection of animal instinct and human rationality. With this collection, Voltage Haute Couture, Van Herpen sought to portray movement and power, the ability of light and energy to change states and bodies.

(Photo: Philip Beesley)

The inspiration and innovation are apparent in the Voltage Haute Couture show. Even when the models are standing perfectly still, the garments shimmer and twitch and seem to come alive. They’re constructed of thin fabrics that catch even the slightest breeze. Some are adorned with mirrored surfaces that reflect every drop of sunlight. The clothes can be changed by wind and light. This is fashion manipulated by nature.

(Photo: Ronald Stoops)

Van Herpen designed a  bolero, constructed of white, laser cut fabric, so that slim ribs of black peek through, changing with every model’s breath. A black overcoat is covered with a mound of white appliques, like clusters of feathery sea anenomes. Her cocktail dress looks more like a sculpture than a garment: a work of art constructed out of sharp, jagged,shiny metallic peaks making the model’s body look like a sci-fi mountain range.

Every designer hopes for a runway show that generates buzz, but Van Herpen’s new collection crackles with an otherworldly, light-years-ahead kind of excitement and beauty we haven’t seen anywhere else.

(Photo: Philip Beesley)

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