As Couture Week started yesterday, we take a look at one of fashion’s most unexpected couture designers: Iris van Herpen, who continuously surprises the audience by mixing 3D printing and intrinsic handcraft. We spoke with the Dutch designer about communicating movement through different technological channels like the Internet, and if we are nearing the point at which 3D printed clothes will become mass-produced and fully accessible.

“For now, printing is working for couture, demi-couture, small productions of RTW and for prototyping: mass production will need time.”

Previously, the textures created via 3D printing seemed a way of capturing movement in the immovable. Are you consciously considering different forms of technology like the internet and how your printed garments are communicated through those channels? For instance how these pieces can suggest motion online on a computer or phone, where most of us will see your work as static in 2-dimensions?

It’s beautiful that we have access to so much information and images today, and it’s also good to realise how limiting the online experience is. But it’s strange to think that a real life experience can become ‘luxury’.

To be honest, I don’t think about the medium of experience when I design. The design process is holy to me; it’s free of many thoughts. There is a lot of movement captured in my work — movement is life; it’s all there is…

In my youth, I danced a lot, and I realised that dance/change through the body are essential for me in each of my designs – whether it is printed or handmade. When I started working with technology, I approached those designs very differently than the garments that I made by hand, as the process felt so different. Now, I don’t divide the two anymore: craft and printing, or other technologies all merge together in my head, and that shows as a final result in my collections as well.

Since 2013, you’ve noted that your 3D printed RTW garments are fully-flexible and machine washable. Do you believe that we’re nearing the point at which 3D printed clothing will become mass-produced and fully accessible? If not, why?

We are not yet nearing the point where clothes are massively printed for ready-to-wear. The choice in durable and flexible materials to print with, are still very limited. Additionally, 3D printing is called rapid prototyping; meaning it is fast and easy for a first sample.

Time and costs do not decrease when you do production [with 3D printing]. Whereas in fashion it is the case that the cost of making the garments decrease once the production is increased — which is what the whole system of (affordable) RTW is based on — this rule does not apply for printing garments.

I don’t know how they could change this, but I am sure there is a way. I just don’t think it will be very soon. So for now, printing is working for couture, demi-couture, small productions of RTW and for prototyping: mass production will need time.

You’ve worked on the pliability of 3D materials, the versatility of the medium in terms of scale and detail, and even interpreted the other senses through print. What next? What could you possibly do beyond that?

There are such endless paths to explore… I really feel that I have just begun searching. Each impossible thought triggers me to keep on moving.


Video content via SHOWStudio

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A special note to our Danish readers: Iris van Herpen’s work features in the Clash- Resistance in Fashion exhibition in Herning Museum of Contemporary Art until the 1st of February!

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