Iris Van Herpen’s First Foray Into Crystal Alchemy

For tech-inspired haute couture that defies description, there’s one name on everyone lips right now: Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen. Hailed as a true 21st–century innovator, the 33–year–old’s meteoric rise is due to her completely original vision, which consists of elements drawn from art, science, dance and fashion all brought together in her astonishing creations.
Designer Iris van Herpen
Designer Iris van Herpen by Jean Baptiste Mondino

And yet, as much as she is an outlier, she is also steeped in the discipline of her craft. The same skills that secured her entry to the hallowed Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture now see her celebrating ten years this month of a dazzling design career, with her pieces on display all over the world, such as at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her uniquely sculptural combinations of laser-cutting, silicone molding, hand-blown glass, 3D printing—and that’s just some of her techniques—meshed with traditional skills of draping and construction, make it almost impossible to say if a dress is handmade or created through technology.

Beguiled by Swarovski crystal since her student days in the Netherlands, Iris van Herpen has been a member of the Swarovski Collective for some years, reveling in the contrasts of the graphic and the organic. And so we come to her position today: her Paris Haute Couture show on July 3 marked the 10th anniversary of her extraordinary atelier. The venue was suitably dramatic—the opulent birthplace of the historic flying trapeze act, Cirque d’Hiver, from where she introduced the world to her aquatic-themed Fall/Winter 2017 collection, Aeriform. Providing an evocative, ethereal backcloth were the Danish underwater artists, Between Music. Specialists in sound sculptures, they performed using custom-built instruments while submerged in transparent water containers positioned on the runway.

Altogether, eighteen garments were shown, including a dress made of tulle embellished with Couture Studs that were especially developed by Swarovski for her show. Describing her Fall/Winter 2017, she said: “Air and water are the structural and visual components of the 18 elaborate silhouettes, influencing the development of both the textiles and garment construction, which is reflected in their volume, rippling patterning, and translucent layering.”

It didn’t end there: later that evening, there was a glamorous cocktail reception for fashion industry movers and shakers and VIPs at the iconic Hôtel d’Évreux to unveil Iris van Herpen’s new Designer Edition by Iris van Herpen for Swarovski. Guests included Daphne Guinness, Philippe Ferrandis, On Aura Tout Vu, Saskia Diez, and Shourouk from the world of fashion and jewelry design. Model Coco Rocha looked magnificent in jewelry from Atelier Swarovski and a dress by Iris van Herpen.

The futuristic collection consists of the mesmerizing Growing Crystal and 3D Studs. Inspired by the play of light and movement, both crystal cuts embody the ballet-trained designer’s fascination with dance and choreography. Growing Crystal features geometric shapes shimmering with light-refracting embellishment. Graphic rhomboids and rectangles shimmer within layers of crystallized complexity—some 500 double cones make up the core of each crystal, teasing the viewer with a touch of trompe l’oeil, as though you’re watching crystals multiplying as they bubble up from a pendant. 
Meanwhile 3D Studs cleverly create a feeling of motion as rows of metal studs are tipped with crystal, all at different heights. The effect? Surfaces instantly take on a new, dynamic topography. Imagine a simple sneaker taking flight with 3D studs encrusting the upper, or an embellished necklace forever seeming to change shape as the light hits it.

This is a stellar moment in the career of a truly unique visionary. With her limitless passion for play and possibility, we watch with fascination to see where Iris van Herpen takes her flight of fantasy over the next decade.


Runway Images: Yannis Vlamos
Backstage Images: Juliette Lambard, David Picchiottino