The black of Iris Van Herpen

Dutch fashion designer Iris Van Herpen graduated from the ARTEZ School of Arts in Arnhem in 2006 and is pushing the enveloppe of contemporary fashion ever since.

There are three dresses by you in the Black exhibition, could you tell us the story behind them, as well as the collections they come from?
There is one black hair-dress out of my first collection, called Fragile Futurity (S/S 2008). That collection was based on the evolution of humans and animals in the future, so I combined both into new ‘human animals’. This collection was all about a fragile and unknown future and how I imagined that future.
The second look comes from the Mummification (A/W 2009) collection. It is a black leather jacket with a headpiece that covers the eyes. It is made out of hundreds of leather strokes and little metal eyelets. That collection was based on how the Egyptians saw art, life and death and how they translated that into their mummification rituals. I looked at the techniques and materials they used and translated that into my own world today.
The third look comes from my Radiation Invasion (S/S 2010) collection. It’s a short black leather dress, made out of hundreds of strokes that I moulded into the right shapes, it is quite organic and it looks a bit like locorice, like of you can eat it. For that collection I was inspired by all the invisible radiation waves (e.g. telephone, internet) that we have around us and even go through us all the time. It is fascinating but scary at the same time, we have no idea about the impact of this this wireless world we are depending on nowadays.

What does the colour black mean to you in your collections and the design process?
I see black as a colour which can transform very well. It can underline a dark or mysterious feeling, but it can also be really feminine, elegant and comfortable. It really depends on how you use it. Because I work with texture, 3D shapes and special materials, black is really my favourite colour. Through black, the play of lines, shadow and depth is really maximized.

What are the main pilars in your artistic universe?
Where do you draw your inspiration from?

From life, people, things that happen to me or around me. Mostly it is non-material, and a bit about the ‘unknown’ that makes me wonder and that leaves some space for my imagination.

Do you have any new plans?
I am working on my new collection, which will I’ll show during London Fashion Week, and designing shoes for that. A preview of this collection will be shown at Amsterdam Fashion Week in July. I am also going to make a look for Skin of Skunk Anasie, who are touring until November. And in March next year, I’ll be presenting in Paris at the Institut Néerlandais. So really exciting.