'Futuristic’ does not come close to defining Herpen’s collections. The Dutch protege interned with Alexander McQueen before launching her own label in 2007 and has designed outfits for freakishly fashion-forward Bjork and Lady Gaga. Her pieces fuse traditional craftsmanship with cutting edge technology into something never seen before.
I imagine your influences to be far reaching and eclectic. What inspires you within the fashion world and beyond?
I’m inspired by artists, dance, architecture, matter itself, science, experience, structures and nature more than fashion itself. When I see really good material, I imagine it as a dress.
Movement is very important for me. I see bodies in incredible forms of motion that look no longer look like bodies. Outside my studio windows I watch the big boats slowly passing by in the old harbour of Amsterdam. The moving water is magical as the light changes throughout the day, juxtaposing the crappy old boats and the industry of weird machines. This contradiction inspires me too.
Thinking about this question my list grows bigger and bigger. To be honest the list of 'what does not inspire me' is much shorter than the list of what does!
You work with an insane range of unusual materials. Tell us about experimenting with new forms and your opinions on how things will develop in the future?
Experimenting with new materials is the best part of creating a collection. As there is no prior knowledge there are no set routines and it is totally uncontrollable. Figuring out how to work with pioneering materials therefore means finding new structures and shapes.
I see very few limitations for what can be used in fashion and think it will evolve radically beyond what we are capable of imagining today. What is described in books as ‘futuristic fashion’ [a term often used to refer to Herpen’s work] does not come close. I see a time when non-matter is used for clothes - firstly holograms and then the digitalisation of real matter.
I actually think that the further technology develops, the closer it will return to nature which represents the highest technology possible. Though it sounds negative I really believe that humans are often not intelligent enough to realise their own shortcomings Therefore I see everything I do as an experiment and experience. I am very curious about life but do not need answers as there is no truth.
Nano technology is an example of coming back to nature and it is scary to imagine what we will do with it; there are really magical possibilities but it could also totally destroy us if the wrong people use it.
Your designs use simplistic colour and highly elaborate shapes bridging borders between fashion, architecture and sculpture. Why is the silhouette so important to your aesthetic?
I concentrate on structure, shape, technique and material. The colours I choose don’t distract from the structure and shape but reinforce it. I have no use for neon or primary colours.
The world is three dimensional. Making drawings in 2D is limiting and loses information so the 3D ideas in my mind are translated straight into the actual design.
Similarly I do not use 2D prints as it feels very old fashioned, whereas 3D printing is the beginning of something really interesting. Perhaps eventually, as technology evolves, nothing will be 2D and we will be talking about four or even five dimensions.
You have been lauded as a true craftsman, as despite pushing borders with technology, your work still requires labour-intensive traditional sewing. Tell us more about the straddling of past, present and future that you have touched on already.
I take from different worlds and eras using what I like most or that I miss today, to create something rich and alive.
I would never advocate using solely machines or technology for creation as this may result in perfection but loses all humanity and soul. This is sadly the case with a lot of design and architecture today.
Subsequently I am more interested in old architecture and design when there was more craftsmanship, time and fantasy involved. A purely functional environment is death in my eyes.
Technology is not the answer to everything, but teamed with old knowledge and techniques it can create something new and unexpected with the liveliness of yesterday and the possibility of the future.
Your career has already seen many collaborations, including teaming up with United Nude for the incredible ‘fang’ shoes in your 2012 Spring/Summer collection (see below). What double ups did you enjoy the most, what does collaboration bring to the creative process and do you have any further joint projects in the pipeline?
I enjoyed all of my collaborations or I wouldn't have done them. I use my instinct when choosing people to work with, which has resulted in interesting projects. I loved working with Isaie Bloch [architect] as I had a real laugh with him. United Nude were really organised and professional (I have worked with them over five seasons and am now starting on a sixth) and it was interesting to work with such a big production network. [Milliner] Stephen Jones is a magically free minded person who inspired me every time I spoke to him. I learnt different ways of seeing and thinking from these people who work within different disciplines and also benefitted from the energy that surrounds creative people.
To marvel further at Iris' designs go to her website.