A glimpse into Iris van Herpen’s new collection, ‘Shift Souls’

Prior to the show, a preview in the intimacy of a remote Parisian atelier

in brief

Prior to today’s show, we were invited to preview Iris van Herpen’s latest collection, Shift Souls, and had the opportunity to walk through the designer’s new collection with the brand’s Commercial Director Paul van As.

As Mr van As walked us through the ‘offsite’ atelier, installed in Atelier Néerlandais in Paris, we witnessed the delicate work of crafting while the dressmakers were finalizing the intricate creations of van Herpen.

Each season, the brand commissions chosen partner companies to produce shoes to fit the collection. This time, they feature brown, beige and black leather uppers and transparent acrylic fused with different dyes of colors. As shown in an Instagram trailer video before the show, the brand collaborated with artists working on chemical colors.

Kim Keever (Water Ballet) is an artist based in America, mostly known for his work of photography, he creates cloud-like mixtures of colors thank to aquariums filled with water, where he infuses colors. It looks very spectacular, although, pretty much like collectable objects made exclusively for this collection, these shoes won’t ever be in stores, Mr van As tells us, but some of them will be sold to collectors.

This season’s collection is very rich in colors, compared to previous ones, with a lot of Asian influence, Mr van As tells us about the dresses we’re about to see.

“We start with this kimono, the ‘Symbiotic Asymmetric Kimono Dress’, with gradient-dyed silk panels of shuiro red and tyrian purple multilayered and heat-bonded onto a fine 3D lasercut lace of black mylar and cotton, creating hybrid bird patterns. Everything is applied by hand.” Mr van As tells us.

The Symbiotic Asymmetric Kimono, part of the Shift Souls Iris van Herpen Couture collection.

Moving on to the next dresses, Mr van As shows us a dress that looks like a cloud, and tell us plenty of these will also be at the show. Then we see a white dress, in which a face is hidden (recalling the name of the collection, Shift Souls). Mr van As tells us the dress was made thanks to a similar technic as for the kimono, but with the hidden faces.

The Hidden Faces of Iris van Herpen’s Shift Souls collection.

“When there is movement in it they look entirely different. We enjoyed working with gradient dying for this season, collaborating with factories to make it possible. We also used pleating for some of the dresses, using fabrics that were printed in factories specialized in printing. There was actually quite some logistics there: the print factories, located in Italy and Germany, developed and tested techniques. It had to be printed in quite high resolution, in a way to keep the gradient. The pleating was made in France and Italy, but also in Germany. It’s actually an European project. The organza comes from Germany or Japan, and the silk from Japan.” Mr van As explains.

For the show, van Herpen collaborated with a lot of people, included Philipp Beesley, on a new development based on a dress made for the Between the Lines collection, the Glitch Dress. Which was made of laser cut mylar, and appears to be floating in the air when worn. Indeed, the material behaves like a computer glitch on moving models. Back in the previous collection, it was available in black & white.

The Glitch Dress, from Shift Souls collection.

The dress indeed does look different when worn: the material moves like a computer glitch, its shape changes. It was made of a very fine laser cut mylar.

“Mylar is actually a material developed by NASA for its space shuttles. For the pipes, because they cannot use metal, as it would cause electrostatic chocs. And it’s a very interesting materials for us to work with.” Mr van As tells us.

Laser cutting was particularly difficult for this kind of dress, as there is a large research necessary to find the right laser and settings for it not to burn, but also to behave as wanted. For the collection, they also introduced the dye. Which happens before the material gets cut. It was also quite an exercise for pattern marking, which was done thanks to the use of a computer.

It’s a lot of trials and errors. To find the right partners, Mr van As tells us with a smile

“We have to do a lot of Googling. It’s also always hard for us to convince potential partners to do something that’s not predictable, we need to find people who are ready to innovate, whilst we don’t have the same budget as large luxury brands.”

While the dresses look quite fragile, Mr van As tells us they aren’t as much as they can seem.

“The genius of Iris is that her designs are always wearable, they’re technically done so that they look delicate, but she always thinks about how to put it on a hanger, or how she can hide a zipper… There’s always a solution, a practical side because people have to wear it.”

Some of the dresses to be presented at the show on Monday.

The cloud dresses feature mesmerizing prints, in multiple layers, that create 3D effects (although it’s not 3D printed, Mr van As specifies).

One of the final dresses of the show.

This dress is sculptural but also quite convenient. It’s an effect achieved thanks to the same technique as for the frame of laser cut metal in the finale dress from last season (Syntopia), but this time, it’s made from PETG. Mr van As tells us that it took a lot of research to find it, and to make the same 3D effect. They also added gradient of colors through the fabric. This dress alone required around 2-3 months of handwork for a few people.

As we move on to the show finale dress, we discover a dress consisting of around 1.100 separate panels. Made possible thanks to computer assisted design, the dress is made of separate panels that are laser cut, numbered and mounted like a 3D puzzle.

One of the show finale dress, being finalized in the atelier.

“We design with 3D, then the software translates it into 2D, because the companies that cut it need Illustrator files. We make that ourselves, so there is innovation there. Iris receives the material then she decides what shapes she wants to do. It’s a combination of computer and seeing how it behaves on a body. It’s surely one of the most spectacular dresses. The 1.100 separate pieces are hand applied on a base structure. It would be way easier if we could 3D print this all at a time, but this is not possible. It’s all hand work. It even has a lining that makes it comfortable to wear. This dress will also come alive when worn. I think this is also what is very important to understand with this collection is that movement is very important. Instead of using our usual videos we asked for slow mo and close up cameras.”

One of the most spectacular dresses of the show (the one on the upside of the picture), made of multilayered panels printed with clouds, and the finale dress, made of printed pattern panels, hand applied to a base.

The dress as it will look like when worn.

“This dress features clouds printed in high resolution images on the fabrics, layered to get the 3D effect, with clouds or nebulas multi dimensional 3D print. We are here in the middle of finalizing the dresses…” Mr van As concludes.

Needless to say, we can’t wait to see the entire collection in movement!

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