“The essence of my designs is expressing the

character of a unique woman.”


Dutch designer Iris van Herpen has been pushing the boundaries between fashion and art since her debut at Amsterdam’s International Fashion Week in 2007. Born in 1984, van Herpen studied fashion design at ARTEZ and was an intern at both Alexander McQueen and Claudy Jongstra before starting her own eponymous label. The van Herpen woman values the art and craftsmanship of traditional couture . . . with a twist. According to van Herpen, her work aims to express the character and emotions of a ‘unique woman’ whilst extending the shape of the female body through the fabric and materials used to create each piece. The label’s Spring 2011 collection proves that, in the world of fashion, form does not always have to follow function. For this season all of van Herpen’s designs were created digitally before being re-created through a 3-D printing service called i.materialise. The results: futuristic garments made entirely of plastic!

Iris Van Herpen for FAULT Magazine Summer 2011


FAULT: Have you always been attracted by unusual and extraordinary clothes?

Iris: Fashion is a way to express yourself. Fortunately I do not think I am a boring person and I am happy that I have the passion to express that.  I get bored quite quickly, especially when you walk through the streets of the Netherlands. The clothes that people wear here in general do not show any personality or creativity. It is uninteresting and it distracts me.  The process of creating your pieces seems to be a very laborious and difficult work, which needs a lot of time.

FAULT: So what does your day look like; how much time do you spend with your work?

Iris: My pieces do need a lot of time. And the interesting thing is, I am not a patient person at all. I can’t stand waiting for example for a train or a bus. I hate wasting time in that sense! The only time I am patient, is when I make my designs. Sometimes it is almost like meditation, I come into another state of mind. It is only about my own world then, nothing else matters that much anymore. It is good for seeing things in perspective, the importance of things. The only thing I have to be careful with is that I still mind about others things as well enough, because I create and design every day! A day of mine is a lot of handwork, but (how not romantic) a lot of computer work as well. There is also a lot of organizing and communication with people that work around you. I place orders, send designs and I am exploring the new 3D technique now, the rapid prototyping for which is also a lot of computer work. I never make really easy things, so all looks need at least a week or two, three to four.

FAULT: What are your steps of implementing of your ideas after finishing the sketches? And which part do you enjoy most, the conception or the implementation of an idea?

Iris: I have actually four ways of designing. Sometimes I do the normal way, I draw something on paper and I implement it afterwards into real life. But mostly I have the design detailed in my head and I implement it without any drawings then. Or I start experimenting with different materials and techniques. And if I like some of the experiments, I start to endlessly moulage with it around a mannequin. Afterwards I make patterns and then the implementation comes. So the moulage is the design process. With that process I do not know where I will end if I start.Now the new way of working is there as well, rapid prototyping; I have something in my mind, I draw everything, optical 3D but actually 2D, on the computer. Then somebody else translates it into real 3D on the computer and after that an interaction between me and him starts; the whole process to find out what is possible and what isn’t.
I like all different ways of working. Within the rapid prototyping processes, I still like the whole process because it is still new for me. For the previous methods I like the implement phase the most, because it is out of my head then, which is a relief as it gives me more rest. The more it is out, the better it is for me.

Iris is one of the most innovative designers since McQueen

FAULT: Many designers are saying art is a very big and important source of inspirations. What is your opinion about that concerning your work and your personal biggest inspirational source?

Iris: For me life itself is the most inspiring form of art. All things we describe as normal; humans, animals, the civilisation process, people changing, the heart, and I could name another thousand things, are for me the purest forms of art. A lot of art is very inspiring for me, but mostly the person behind the work is my biggest inspiration. It is not the final art piece or even the concept behind it; it is the person and the way the artist lives and creates that inspires me. And I sometimes experience a real pure wave of inspiration; if I see something really new, something really beautiful in art, it makes me happy and it gives me direct energy to create myself. Then it is just a feeling, the energy of the work that it gives to me.

FAULT: It’s obvious that your collections aren’t like “mass-produced items”, but they are unquestionably incredible. Despite the positive feedback, how many of your pieces can you finally really sell?

Iris: I made some of the looks for a shop a few times. It is still handwork but it’s possible to make it once in a while. Some of the looks are sold as one-offs and sometimes I make a one-off order for somebody personally. The shoes, and I am working on my first bag now, I sell in bigger amounts. They are still a limited edition, not a mass product, but in bigger amounts than the clothes.

FAULT: Have you ever doubted at the beginning of your career that your designs maybe wouldn’t be well received by the public, in consideration of that you aren’t creating (daily) wearable pieces, but rather futuristic and avant-garde clothes with a dramatic appearance? If so, what helped you to go this way and nevertheless follow your vision?

Iris: I was a bit scared in the beginning to share my work with others, because it was so personal, and I had no idea if people would understand what I am creating. My concepts are quite abstract and unusual. So I didn’t know at all how to explain them clearly to the outer world. I still find that hard sometimes, because I like to philosophize and change my mind about my work and concepts all the time. Now I accept that and people around me know. In the beginning I thought the people would find that strange or chaotic. But the feeling that I needed to share with others about what I am creating was always stronger than the doubts. What really made me ‘go for it’ was the interaction that I needed. Something is nothing without people seeing it or experiencing it.

Read Iris’ full FAULT Interview in our Summer 2011 issue