The fearless scientist of fashion talks about her thirst for knowledge and the importance of breaking free from routine as her first large-scale solo exhibition opens
Every field and every discipline has a phenom, a star, but the strength of the work of Iris van Herpen is that she deserves the title in perhaps three of them - fashion, art and design, so instinctual and majestic are her clothes. Still, whatever the discipline, she is manufacturing the stuff of dreams.
When I collaborate with an architect, for example, it isn't only the techniques I learn but also a new way of thinking and approaching design. It can be a relief to see different ways of working, to step outside your routine
From March 24th, the Groninger Museum presents the first solo exhibition of Iris van Herpen and her work since launching her label in 2007 with a book to accompany it. We speak with the designer about the exhibition, working life, and her obsessions.
Dazed Digital: A number of designers have said that studying away from the fashion capitals of the world had a positive effect on their vision and working method. How was your experience?
Iris van Herpen: Yes, I think it was important to study in a place like Anthem because you can really come into yourself. I think a lot of the way you work, too, is where you grew up. My town was so small that you start to look for things around that interest you that you can do something with.
DD: Once in the city, you see things no one else does because it's new to you. At first, you're unsure where to look.
Iris van Herpen: You can look at something and not see it. It's the same with sound. You need to really listen to where you are.
DD: What is your goal with this exhibition?
Iris van Herpen: I really see it as a moment of standing still. I started in 2007 and that's where it begins, a chronological look of the first collections until the latest, including the collection, 'Micro', that was shown in January. It'll be strange enough to see everything I did together for the first time but I hope this might even help me to realise what I've done. We are also, of course, doing the book for the exhibition. Fashion is fast but I like that. It's always onto the next.
DD: You have always taken the time and emphasised the importance of developing new techniques for the collections...
Iris van Herpen: I opened myself up to developing new techniques but it's always a collaboration with someone. I take their knowledge and they take my ideas and designs. That combination brings it forward. When I collaborate with an architect, for example, it isn't only the techniques I learn but also a new way of thinking and approaching design. It can be a relief to see different ways of working, to step outside your routine.
DD: I always think of you as a scientist of fashion, a fearless scientist of fashion.
Iris van Herpen: I'm extremely obsessed with things I don't know about and I want to experiment until I understand. I'm more of a math person and there's a lot of math and science here and I like these endless puzzles. We've made a good start with the 3D printing we've done, but I'd like to create new materials and I think of a collection in which I've designed all the materials. If I come to that point, you can call me a scientist! The will to do it all is there.
Iris van Herpen, Groninger Museum, 24 March - 23 September, 2012, Museumeiland 1, 9711 ME Groningen, The Netherlands