Dutch Designer Makes Couture Dresses From Unusual Materials

First Posted: May 03, 2016 04:30 AM EDT

Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen has been making heads turn with her mind-blowingly out of their time haute couture creation. During the Paris Fashion Week in March, models walked in a gravity-defying ensemble on the runway dotted with strategically placed optical screens that reflected and distorted. Ven Herpen was among the first to experiment with 3-D printing in fashion, she considers most wearable tech to be "too gimmicky".

The 31-year-old has been pegged as a "wearable tech" designer, a title she's not entirely comfortable with. Van Herpen's studio in Amsterdan would pass as a laboratory where she has enlisted scientists, architects, and computer programmers as co-conspirators. According to's The Cut, van Herpen said that her co-conspirators bring so much knowledge of material and fabric construction that is not really known in fashion.

She and product designer Jólan van der Wiel used iron fillings as the base for the dresses they create then shape them using magnets. She also created over a thousand pieces of silicone to create a raised pattern for a fall 2013 couture dress. The Smithsonian said that Iris has been praised by the New York Times for how different her way of thinking is. The NY Times described her as a high-concept designer who merges her interest in fashion, art, and architecture with modern technologies and fields of science like particle physics, robotics and microbiology. "Iris van Herpen's astonishing designs don't look like 'clothes,'" the Washington Post wrote last year. "They look like the future."

Van Herpen has also said that a lot of her work is inspired by the future, People really have particular ideas about the future," she says. "Sci-fi-looking' is an idea that people still have from movies from the '80s." Even though her results might look more futuristic than Chanel's Lesage embroideries, van Herpen still sees herself as fairly in the handcrafted tradition of couture. "Technology, for me, is just a tool," she says. "The laser cutter or the 3-D printer - to me it's equal to my hands or the hands of my team." And even though she has designed several pieces that were printed by robots, the collection was still based on classical lacemaking techiniques. Van Herpen also admitted that the robots are not very interesting to her.

In fact, many of her handmade pieces were mistaken for being 3-D printed and vice versa, only proving that even experts can barely tell the difference between the two. Several of van Herpen's pieces will appear alongside Hussein Chalayan's "Kaikoku" floating dress and Chanel's 3-D-printed suit in the Costume Institute's upcoming exhibit "Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology," opening May 5.

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