Part Alexander McQueen and part tech geek, Iris van Herpen’s futuristic frocks are making waves in the fashion world. Comprised of Plexiglass, leather, synthetic boat rigging, copper, and other outlandish materials, the Dutch designer pumps out show-stoppers that incorporate everything from 3D-printed wood to cascades of Medusa-like coils. This month the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands honors the annoyingly young 27-year-old with her first major exhibition, which spotlights career-bests from her eponymous label since its launch in 2007.
Curators Sue-an van der Zijpp and Mark Wilson (the man behind the institution’s recent Azzedine Alaïa retrospective) underline the designer’s secret weapon: manipulating technology to test the limits of fashion. She uses a laser sintering machine to cut plastic into strips, employs 3D printing to transform architectural models into intricate exoskeletons, and uses scientific photographer Steve Gschmeissner as the prime inspiration for her Spring/Summer 2012 couture collection. She’s also known to tap industry experts to add flair to her garments, such as architect Isaïe Bloch, hat designer Stephen Jones, artist Bart Hess, and graphic designer Tara Dougans. United Nude has asked her on more than one occasion to add her magic touch to limited edition kicks, piquing the interest of Björk and Lady Gaga.
Van Herpan’s conceptual M.O. resonates with the Groninger’s interest in exploring the intersection of art, fashion, and design. She’ll join the likes of Comme des Garçons, Viktor & Rolf, and Hussein Chalayan, all of whom have had shows at the museum.