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Iris Van Herpen Refines Smoke

The Dutch designer's latest S/S 09 collection shown at Amsterdam Fashion Week takes inspiration from industrial smoke.

A graduate of the ARTEZ academy in Arnhem, Iris Van Herpen has been showing collections at Amsterdam Fashion Week that defy conventional materials and her experimentation with materials such as metal has made her shows a highlight on the AIFE schedule.

Dazed Digital: What was the inspiration for your collection SS09 collection 'Refinery Smoke'?

Iris Van Herpen: I have been passing refineries many times in my life, the grey, tragic look of it inspires me, especially the beautiful fluently crawling smoke, which is so beautiful when looking at it, but you get this stange feeling because it should not be there. I tried to capture the look of the industrial smoke together with the contradiction of the refinery. I also wonder if we will always be wearing clothes/fabrics, or would it be possible in future to wear other substances like smoke?

DD: You seem to always be interested in the way materials are used and manipulated - how do you go about experimenting with different fabrics?
IH: There is always this big search for me for the right materials for a collection, not only the designs in the end but also the materials of the collection itself has to have the feeling and radiation of my inspiration. I tried many MATERIALS for this collection, before choosing these materials. It's a process I need to go through before I can really start on a collection. I start making and experimenting with different materials. If I get this 'yes' feeling, I start to work on the collection with that material and then I limit myself by working with maximum three or four materials in one collection. For this collection I used real thin wire gauze. It looks fluid, soft and it moves slowly in the rhythm that the model is walking in. At the same time, it is metal, and the edges are sharp. Together with that I made dresses from really thin (thinner than your hair) threads for the contradiction of the hard and soft, but both moving and changing colours as you walk.

DD: Your pieces are considered to be demi-couture or even couture - would you like to venture more into ready to wear and develop a more wearable collection of what you put on the runway?
IH: For me the word 'couture' is a vague image, somehow I think it is not from this time anymore. I don't think if you make
conceptional clothes or 'unwearable' it is couture and I see my collections as ready to wear. In my collections there are unwearable and wearable dresses and designs and I think they both become stronger if you combine them in a show.

DD: Who of your Dutch fashion contemporaries do you admire?
IH: From a lot of designers I can admire a few items or collections they have made, but no Dutch designer I admire for everything they did or do.

DD: What sort of person do you see wearing Iris Van Herpen?
IH: Difficult, I don't know for sure yet I think

DD: What hopes do you have for your own label?
IH: I am not the kind of person which looks in the future to much or has everything planned for years already. The only thing I know is that I have to do my collections, creations, show my vision to the world. And I hope I can find my own way in giving people more than only the show, by having my own label.

Backstage photography by Joost Vandebrug