Mind The Gap

February 9th, 2017  |  Published in January/February 2017

Mind The Gap


When fashion designers gather to showcase their haute couture collections in Paris twice a year, it’s generally an anything goes scenario. To be included in this elite company of artisans, chosen specifically by the Paris Chamber of Commerce, is an honor and only given to those designers at the top of their creative field.

Since haute couture as a rule is not about showing garments that can easily translate to retail stores across the world, design houses like Valentino, Jean Paul Gaultier and Elie Saab generally have carte blanche to create whatever appeals to their artistic inclinations at the time. And the results are stunning definitions of what makes fashion art in its purest form. Art that is brought to life, living on a human form.

Even though the mundane has no place in the hallowed halls of Paris Couture Week, it is easy for some audiences to grow tired of the beauty they see before them. See enough show-stopping finale gowns fit for a royal bride and some minds will tend to wander. However that is not the case with Iris Van Herpen, the Dutch fashion designer/artist who every couture season lays bare her design ethos of New Couture on the runway for all to see.

Playing with the concept of geometric lines on par with her previous haute couture collection, Van Herpen last month presented Between the Lines. The collection once again highlighted what this new guard designer is known for: her ability to construct organic shapes using the most cutting edge technology. It’s in this dichotomy where her true genius lies.

To create the shapes and second-skin like garments found in Between the Lines, Iris digitally designed the patterns and then painted the resulting hand-casted transparent PU (polyurethane) fabric through a process known as injection molding. For those of us who did not excel in science class, on the most basic level Iris created a 3D mold of a pattern (reminiscent of a skeleton in a way) and then filled the lines with contrasting colors for the body of work to appear. Complicated? Absolutely. Ground-breaking? 100%.

By using a mix of contrasting fabrics and nude silk tulle, the skins Van Herpen created were transformed into actual garments people (i.e. models on the runway) could wear. Interestingly enough, one or two pieces were close to the wearable side of the spectrum (unusual for the designer’s couture work). Whether that was an intentional shift by the designer or a happy coincidence, only time will tell.

In creating this collection in collaboration with artist Esther Stocker, known for her geometric art installations, Van Herpen chose to focus more on the gaps created from the pattern through distortion vs. just simply highlighting the pattern itself. She wanted the audience to see the pattern and then allow the eyes to be tricked into seeing what was in between the gaps. On so many levels, this 16-piece runway show was a virtual feast for the eye to behold (pun intended).

Past the innovative techniques Van Herpen showed is a more intriguing message. In her collection, she is forcing us to examine between the lines and look past our pre-conceived notions or what our eyes default to seeing. Does this at all translate to our world today?

As a society, we are fed an enormous amount of information through the technology we hold so dear. But do we ever stop to consider if what we are seeing is the truth or just what someone wants us to see?

Do we ever just stop. Stop to re-adjust our eyes and look for what is being said (or not being said) in the gaps. This author is taking a valuable lesson from Iris Van Herpen’s collection with her challenge to “mind the system, but to find the gaps.”

Jenny Perusek is a freelance Brand Manager, specializing in fashion and the creative arts.

Images courtesy of Iris Van Herpen via Vogue Runway.

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