5 Questions for... Iris Van Herpen


I had the opportunity to interview Iris this past Couture Fashion Week in Paris. She's an astoundingly talented and visionary fashion designer, artist, and maker on all levels (from the handmade to the ultra-technological), and every season brings an exciting new collection. Below, an excerpt from our conversation.Can you tell me about these background sounds right now?

The collection is inspired by cymatics. Cymatics is the art of visualizing sound. Within my work, I’ve always been fascinated by visualizing things I cannot see. And sound is for me a way to find peace—that’s why I have been collaborating with Kazuya Nagaya, he’s a Japanese artist. You’re hearing him play now, and I’ve been trying with this collection to visualize his sounds.

What is it about his music that appeals to you?

With the sound of Nagaya, it’s not necessarily when you listen to the sound of his work, when we hits the sound bowl, it’s about listening to the sound as it fades away. That’s a very different big difference. When you start listening to that, you get into a different concentration because you’re never able to hear when it’s completely done or when it starts, and that brings you into a meditative state. And that’s what I experience in my work. The process is much more exciting to me than the end result.

All the materials and the techniques that you see are developed in the atelier, and I think that’s why for me couture is really important, because we create our materials ourselves, and that’s a time-consuming process, but so much more interesting than using a material, pre-made.

There are some softer pieces in this collection, too—the silk organza. Are those influenced by sound technology?

We have organza that we line print, so it’s all straight lines. And then we start pleating it on the body, and that creates the moray, the pretty moire effect. So depending on the movement of the wearer, the pattern changes. I think that’s a very beautiful connection with the cymatics. The higher the frequency, the more it changes.

Given all the Asian influences in this collection, is that a new interest for you? It’s not necessarily new. I’ve been traveling to Japan quite a few times. It’s definitely a place that really inspires me, but on a much longer time frame than just now. I think what you see today has been building from a much longer period.

Is it true that you grew up in a household without tv or a computer? What was that like? I really enjoyed it. If I could, I would throw my computer away. I don’t have television and I really don’t need it. I can’t handle it. I didn’t have television at home, and I didn’t have computers until after my art academy. So I held onto it for pretty long. Of course now I work a lot with technology, and computers are a part of my daily life, but that base has been really important.

Bill Cunningham = New York