Iris van Herpen Branches Out but Doesn’t Ignore 3D Printing for Latest Collection

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Many fashion designers have begun incorporating 3D printing into their work, but among the very first to do so was Iris van Herpen. She will always be known as the leader of the 3D printed fashion pioneers, having introduced the first professional 3D printed fashion collection back in 2010. Since then, her body of work has grown significantly and become even more sophisticated in its use of 3D printing technology. In her latest collection, “Shift Souls,” 3D printing is not a focal point for a change, but it’s not entirely missing, and other forms of technology are used to stunning effect, demonstrating once again that van Herpen is not only a brilliant designer but a tech expert.

The “Shift Souls” collection consists of 18 pieces that range from voluminous, flowing gowns to futuristic shapes. The collection was inspired by, according to van Herpen’s website, “early examples of celestial cartography and its representations of mythological and astrological chimera.” She also points to the modern day chimera, the cybrid, a product of DNA engineering, and creates a collection that merges plant and animal, human and otherworldly.

“For ‘Shift Souls’ I looked at the evolution of the human shape, its idealization through time and the hybridization of the female forms within mythology,” said van Herpen. “Specially the imagination and the fluidity within identity change in Japanese mythology gave me the inspiration to explore the deeper meaning of identity and how immaterial and mutable it can become within the current coalescence of our digital bodies.”

Some of the gowns in the collection call to mind flowers, while one particularly fascinating piece manages to call to mind both fire and reflections on water with its wavy silhouette. Van Herpen divides the collection into several categories, including “Harmonics,” which are described as “voluminous spheroid dresses that unfold vibrant patterns through translucent gradient-dyed organza that is halfwheel plisse-ed by hand.” The “Symbiotic” silhouettes are “made from gradient- dyed silks that are multi-layered into sculptural shapes by a fine 3D lasercut frame of PETG to create hybrid bird shapes in dimensional color gradations that hover in symbiosis with the body like mythological creatures.” “Galactic glitch” also uses laser cutting.

3D printing is not involved in the dresses themselves, but it was used to create some fascinating facial jewelry that accompanied the gowns on some of the runway models. The “Cellchemy” jewelry, as van Herpen calls it, was 3D printed from a high-resolution multi-material printer in collaboration with Delft University of Technology. They were developed through a generative design process based on a 3D facial scan. The result is a series of pieces that hug the contours of the face, making the models look as though they’ve merged with circuit boards.

“Shift Souls” is an undeniably beautiful collection, and it also shows van Herpen’s range – she may be known for her work with 3D printing, but she isn’t “just” a designer of 3D printed clothing. She has plenty of techniques in her wheelhouse, and she uses them together to lovely effect. Her “Cellchemy” jewelry, however, shows that even in a non-3D printed collection, she can’t resist using the technology for a few touches.

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