“Intellectual” seems like a big word for a fashion show, but Iris van Herpen’s thought-provoking displays deserve the adjective. For her spring collection, titled “Magnetic Motion,” she showed outfits that spanned the boundaries between clothing, art installation and scientific experiment.
“Motion always is a very important part of my work,” the designer said backstage, explaining that she had visited CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, to check out the Large Hadron Collider, a particle accelerator using thousands of magnets of different varieties and sizes.
Van Herpen then enlisted architects Philip Beesley and Niccolò Casas, as well as artist Jolan Van der Wiel, to help her construct 3-D creations such as cagelike structures that encased the body like translucent webs.
Accessories included clunky platform shoes that looked like thick paint frozen midsplatter — an effect produced by subjecting the material to magnetic fields. What material, exactly, was hard to gauge. Her creations are so cutting-edge they sometimes have trouble making it through customs, one insider confided.
Not everything felt like a sculpture. A jacket embroidered with horn-shaped crystal forms was overlaid with a black mesh veil, giving it a look somewhere between historic and futuristic, while a black bustier gown sprouted glistening 3-D flowers. Little triacetate feathers were used to give black outfits a prickly edge.
Van Herpen said the collection benefited greatly from her 2014 ANDAM Fashion Award, which comes with a cash prize of 250,000 euros, or $317,000 at current exchange, and mentoring from Kering chairman and chief executive officer François-Henri Pinault, who attended the show.
There is no doubt she is one of the most exciting designers working in fashion today. It will be interesting to see if she can bring her conceptual creations to a more mainstream audience — without losing the essence of the brand.

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