By on August 12th, 2013

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Iris van Herpen fashion creation based on a high-speed camera photo of buckets of water tossed on a model

In the high-wattage world of couture, outlandish has rarely been a barrier to success.  So it’s not a stretch that today’s new players include architects and materials designers.  Not fabrics, materials.

The incredible possibilities afforded by these new technologies allowed us to reinterpret the tradition of couture as “tech-couture” where delicate hand-made embroidery and needlework is replaced by code.           via Neri Oxman on

A center of gravity for some groundbreaking materials designers is the Dutch couturier Iris van Herpen. She taps them for insights from their studios and university labs and she translates their work to the Paris runways.

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Van Herpen provides spotlights, reporters.  An entree to normalization in the skittish public eye.


Many of these clothes are not meant for driving, sitting in a booth or on a bar stool, playing beach volleyball or visiting the loo.  They’re theater.  Bjork and Lady Gaga have performed in them.  They’re not cheap tricks — in the best couture tradition they exhibit structural insight and elaborate hand detailing.  And they add new advanced 3D printing.

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Material design by Neri Oxman

The ability to vary softness and elasticity inspired us to design a “second skin” for the body acting as armor-in-motion; in this way we were able to design not only the garment’s form but also its motion…               Neri Oxman on Materialise

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Skirt and cape by Iris van Herpen

The 3D printed skirt and cape were produced using Stratasys’ unique Objet Connex multi-material 3D printing technology, which allows a variety of material properties to be printed in a single build. This allowed both hard and soft materials to be incorporated within the design, crucial to the movement and texture of the piece.    via Materialise

More van Herpen designs:

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…inspired us to design algorithms that could map physical movement and material behaviour to geometrical form and morphological variation in a seamless and continuous wearable surface.

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“We have created dresses whose very forms are generated by the phenomenon of attraction and repulsion.”        Jólan van der Wiel magnetics expert, in collaboration with Iris van Herpen

Iris van Herpen, 1st of july 2013

Some details:

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I enjoy many of van Herpen’s designs but what really fascinates me is the force she’s made of herself.

In 2007, she started her own label.  Since July 2011, she is a guest member of the prestigious Parisian Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, which is part of the Fédération française de la couture.

By allying herself with technological pioneers in the exploding materials field she gives herself a conversational relationship with their field.  Her catwalk cred helps legitimize unfamiliar cutting-edge research in the eyes of the fashion world.  The very world they need to energize with fresh ideas.

That van Herpen uses her clout to raise the profiles of other creators is cause for great respect.



look further

Iris van Herpen — PDFs of her fashion collections

Neri Oxman

Jolan van der Weil

Sources for new couture

By on May 31st, 2013


There’s a kind of art that might be called focus knob aesthetics. You know it on a microscope?  You’re looking at the merest smear of liquid on a slide — and the focus knob can zoom you from one reality to another — as you observe the anatomy of cells ranging from nearest the lens down to those smack against the supporting slide.

The point is you can’t keep both in view at once.

Paleontology, photomosaic by Sloan Nota        copyright Sloan Nota

 Paleontology is an artwork.  A composition, a structure of tones within a shape sculpted from 2D space.  It asks to be judged as any artwork —  does it convince you?  Incite emotions?  Speak to you?

Paleontology is constructed from 37 photographs taken in Paris.  Pont Alexandre III is the city’s most grandiose bridge and its gilding glowed on a sunny day.   I took photos without composition in mind — the processed photos would later suggest how the artwork should be built. Your eye reads the joinery as gestures.   Your right brain takes it in in one gulp.  What your right brain is designed to do.  And what static visual art is designed to address.  Your focus knob is on the whole.

Spin the knob and your left hemisphere can read the content of the photos.  Bridge, goldwork, Seine. No longer gestures, these shapes hold specific meanings that your left brain is made to isolate and name.  Different than how you take in paintings.  In paintings you may pay attention to brushwork but you don’t pay attention to paint.


This is your introduction to a new feature debuting on this blog, Poem for Your Eyes.  A set of images that make a certain sense together.  Not the kind of sense you can be tested on — the war was in 1812, two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen make a water molecule.  I was going to call it Essay for Your Eyes but the right hemisphere of the brain can’t follow arguments.  Or reasonings, pros and cons.

Hence poetry.  The visuals and the wordy stuff won’t mingle.  Credit lines will be found at the bottom of the page.  And other material that your left brain may find intriguing.









  • 1      Ice Monster, St. Joseph Lighthouse, Michigan by tomgill     via Ink and Penstemon
  • 2     Crystallization, 3D-printed woman’s outfit by Iris van Herpen      via dezeen
  • 3     Distortion 6 photo by Andre Kertesz     via
  • 4     Predictive Dream 2 porcelain by Aoiki Katsuyo     via his website
  • 5     Male albino crocodile by EPA               via The Telegraph
  • 6     ferrofluid + detergent photo by Matt Abinante               via Flickr


Poem for Your Eyes is an experiment and I’d appreciate your feedback.  For some the form may raise hackles, for others it may be a comfortable slide into yes.   Please share your thoughts.


look further

St. Joseph Lighthouse

  • This lighthouse on Lake Michigan gets coated with phantasmagoric ice during winters.  A living sculpture, it records where and how the frigid water hits each season.
Iris van Herpen
  • Herpen creates amazing garments using 3D printers and more conventional materials.  None of them look like you’d want to sit down in them but it’s worth checking out her stunning reinvention of what fashion can be.

Aoiki Katsuyo

  • I very much admire his deft and transformative way with porcelain.  The skull motifs, not so much.