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PFWHC Iris Van Herpen AW22
Photography Christina Fragkou

Iris van Herpen’s models were like creatures from a celestial lagoon

For the AW22 Couture collection, models were given mythological transformations straight out of Atlantis

While some designers might take the occasion of their 15th-anniversary collection for a nostalgic look back over the years, taking stock of what’s happened and revisiting old favourites, Iris Van Herpen took the opposite approach. With an eye firmly on the future, the Dutch designer looked forward for Meta Morphism, her latest boundary-pushing couture collection.

As new realms of the metaverse and hyperreality evolve around us, the FW22 Couture show explored how the body will change in these posthuman realities, asking who we are beyond our physicality. Taking Ovid’s epic eighth-century poem Metamorphoses as her framing lens – in particular the three myths of Arachne, Narcissus, and Daphne and Apollo – van Herpen reimagined the act of metamorphosis in the age of digital technology and transhumanism. 

Sartorially, this translated as fine laces trapped in embroidered webs and hundreds of unspun threads floating around the body, as if Arachne was weaving them herself. Translucent layering and reflective textures recalled Narcissus languishing in front of his own reflection, while the finale look embodied the moment Daphne transforms into a laurel tree, the body and nature at one.

When it came to the beauty looks, models were transformed into mythological creatures from a celestial lagoon. Aquatic fin-like hairstyles created from braids came down across the face and then up into organic forms around the head for a look straight out of Atlantis. These intricate braided sculptures came courtesy of Olivier Schawalder and Björn Axén, the Swedish salon that has been a longtime design collaborator with van Herpen. 

Make-up, meanwhile, by Chiao Li Hsu saw gold and silver leaf placed around the eyes of the models, some of whom were also given a bleached brow to complete the ethereal look. The rest of the face was kept dewy and natural, save for a selection of models who also wore delicate translucent sculptures across their faces. On nails, Tomoya Nakagawa created transhumanistic manicures that seemed to glow like jellyfish submerged beneath the waves. 

See the gallery above for the full looks.