November 29, 2023, heralds the inauguration of an extraordinary exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, one that gracefully waltzes through the intricate mind and grand designs of the acclaimed fashion innovator, Iris van Herpen. “Iris van Herpen, Sculpting the Senses” is an ambitious title that indeed serves justice to the magnitude and depth of this display. The meticulous curation by Cloé Pitiot and assistant Louise Curtis unfolds van Herpen’s epoch of avant-garde fashion, offering the audience an intimate soiree with over a hundred hautecouture pieces, a collection that’s both a narrative and testament to van Herpen’s prolific career.
Born amidst nature’s embrace in Wamel, Netherlands, in 1984, van Herpen’s early interactions with the natural world and her profound connection to classical dance intricately weave into her design philosophy. Her foundational years, enriched with stints under the watchful eyes of fashion maestros like Alexander McQueen and Claudy Jongstra, bore witness to the birth of the Maison Iris van Herpen in Amsterdam in 2007. A bastion where artistry and innovation coalesce, where the mystical dance between craftsmanship and modernity births designs that are sensorial sonnets; echoing the intricacies and multitudes of the natural world.
2010 marked the unveiling of van Herpen’s pioneering 3D-printed dress from the Crystallization Collection, a piece now residing within the hallowed halls of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. This icon of interdisciplinary elegance epitomizes van Herpen’s philosophy; a seamless blend of art, chemistry, physics, biology, and technology, casting fashion into an evolving narrative of dynamic entities and potent collaborations.
Walking through the Schwarzman Galleries, visitors are invited into a conversation where fashion, art, and science convene. The interplay is manifest; van Herpen’s designs echo in harmonious dialogues with contemporary art pieces from luminaries like Wim Delvoye, Kate MccGwire, and Neri Oxman. The themes are vivid, exploring water and the origins of life, and echoing the profundity of van Herpen’s own reflections.
“Iris’s work is a triumph of artistry, blending ecological awareness with avant-garde aesthetics,” quotes Cloé Pitiot, a testament to van Herpen’s unwavering commitment to eco-responsible creations, showcased eloquently in pieces crafted from recycled plastics and 3D printed cocoa beans.
The “Carte Blanche” collection beckons the audience into an aquatic tapestry, interwoven with David Spriggs’ “Origins,” while the Collectif Mé’s oceanic waves rise and ebb, embodying the essence of life’s perpetual dance. The skeletal theme, brought to life by the iconic Skeleton Dress, echoes the grandeur of architectural networks and organic forms, a narrative enriched by Ferruccio Laviani’s Gothic cabinet and Yann ArthusBertrand’s visual storytelling in “Terra.”
The sensory world unfolds, a rich tapestry where the whispers of mythology, the mystique of the medusa, and the intricate dance of nature and human ingenuity intersect. Kate MccGwire, EcoLogicStudio, and the samurai armor echo an ancient dialogue, while Matthew Harrison’s sculptures beckon from the shadows, inviting reflections on the corporeal and ethereal.
As the visitor traverses through the curated spaces, the crescendo builds to a cosmic finale. Van Herpen’s creations, akin to celestial bodies, waltz across the cosmic stage under the watchful gaze of Kim Keever’s nebulae. Salvador Breed’s sound composition lends a sensory depth, guiding visitors through an odyssey of body, spirit, and universe.
In the closing tableau, the audience steps into van Herpen’s studio, a sanctified space echoing the rhythmic dance of design and creation. A cabinet of curiosities unveils a world of accessories, a harmonious blend of natural elements and artistic expression, culminating in a visual symphony of van Herpen’s catwalk shows, where movement and artistry unite in an unspoken sonnet of design.
Iris van Herpen, Sculpting the Senses
(29th november 2023 – 28th april 2024)
Musée des Arts décoratifs
107 rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris
+33 (0) 1 44 55 57 50
Métro : Palais-Royal, Pyramides, Tuileries
→ Tuesday to Sunday from 11 am to 6 pm
→ Open late on Thursdays until 9 pm
→ General admission: 14 €
→ Concession: 10 €
→ Free for under 26
Click on this link to read this article in French version