The Fashion Life Scientific: Iris van Herpen and Delfina Delettrez
Iris van Herpen: Magnetic Motion
I was mesmerised by the feet, where shoes looked like a wild and wispy growth of seaweed. The “growth” word was accurate. For Iris van Herpen told me backstage, on the top level of the Pompidou Centre, with its sweeping vista of Paris, that those stringy shoes were going to grow as the models walked the runway.
Magnetic Motion is the title that this designer, steeped in scientific knowledge, called her collection – the first since she was awarded the French Andam prize, an annual event that had previously discovered Martin Margiela and design duo Viktor & Rolf.
Iris van Herpen dresses, inspired by the magnetic field of Cern’s Large Hadron Collider, on the catwalk and backstage
Van Herpen’s skill has been to turn scientific explorations into the reality of wearable clothing. Her belief that all matter ultimately is alive, means that a sorcerer’s mix of chemistry and artistry can theoretically invent new materials for clothing.
But this first outing of Iris’s ideas in a regular catwalk show was too complex to take in. Whereas last season’s models had been trapped in plastic air bags, these women in their sleek black dresses, a scrunch of something’s shiny at the waist, looked well dressed, but did not deliver enough information.
More to the point, I do not know enough about laser cutting and injection moulding. I could see that effects at the waist made three-dimensional, high-shine wraps. But even backstage, with Iris standing beside me, I was lost. Living sculpture? This mix of synthetic biology and advanced engineering was beyond me – both in my imagination and in reality.
But maybe I did not need to go back to when Iris visited Cern’s Large Hadron Collider with its “massive magnetic field”.
Iris van Herpen’s shoes explored the interplay of magnetic forces
The point was that many of the outfits were exquisitely made and looked like genuine, wearable clothes. We are not talking Paco Rabanne’s metallic butchers’ aprons, nor Gianni Versace’s metal mesh, taken from airline interiors. Although there was a fluffy mesh dress, it turned out to be as light as the proverbial feather. Another dress with a bell-shaped skirt looked as though ice had been crunched into shape.
Iris van Herpen offers something undisputedly new and different. A catwalk presentation did not do justice to this spring/summer 2015 space odyssey. I wanted to hear Iris’s voice explaining each piece. But even without that information, the glowing crystals – what she called “living sculptures” – and those growing shoes created the most powerful fashion mix of nature and technology that I have ever seen.
Delfina Delettrez: Robotic Realism
Surrealist designer Delfina Delettrez
“It’s alive!” announced Delfina Delettrez, as visitors to her jewellery display slipped their fingers inside a robotic hand – and saw the fingers move.
Delfina said that the diamond rings, spread across the fake fingers, were a story about the evolution of an engagement ring. But whatever fairy tale the jeweller was following, it seemed to include a horror story.
The moving hands, so clumpy they might have been hospital replacement for missing fingers, came in sweet girly colours such as lilac, pale blue and green. Delfina cited Japanese manga, lunar parks and robotics from the Sixties and Seventies as inspiration. She might also have talked about her feeling about jewellery when the body or hands are in motion.
But the designer had the word for her experiment: “Handroid.”
Robotic hands with Delfina’s latest collection of diamonds set in a spiral band of platinum and gold