IRIS VAN HERPEN SEIJAKU
The classical Greek study of cymatics was the inspiration for Iris van Herpen’s latest autumn & winter ’16 couture collection. For the more anthroposophical beings reading this, cymatics is an abstract philosophy which involves the visualisation of sound waves as emerging geometric structures and patterns. Although van Herpen didn’t use specific sounds or scores to conceive her plissé dresses, she explained to the media backstage that recognised pattern frameworks which could be easily referenced were one of the main tools that were used to compose her creations. This subject body also gave her an opportunity to invite the esteemed Japanese musician Kazuya Nagaya to compose a Zen bowl sound background for her couture installation. Amplified by transmitters, the bell-like sounds rebounded inside the French capitals Eglise Réformée de l’Oratoire du Louvre with the models gracefully settled on stone plinths, wearing tall wooden structured platforms and moving their delicate arms sympathetically to the music.
The selection of dresses that bordered Nagayas acoustic setup were fashioned from thousands of silicone-coated handblown glass bubbles, which upon inspection were in fact Swarovski water drop crystals. Visually, these attributes were technical triumphs and both innovative and futuristic in their appearance and as worthy of the recent Met’s “Manus x Machina” as any of van Herpen’s other pieces that were showcased in the exhibition. Due to its manufacture however, this current couture collection seems to function only in a purely aesthetic manner – in the sense that anyone wearing it would have real problems performing basic daily activities.
“Seijaku is the Japanese word and concept for finding serenity amidst life’s chaos. The artist performed live during the show in the L’Oratoire du Louvre which was specifically chosen for its exceptional acoustics that fuse the meditative sound waves.” – Iris van Herpen
However, this collection shone more predominantly within the industry for its potential real-life applications. Van Herpen undertook research with Japanese Organza which was woven from polymer threads five times thinner than that of human hair. The designer then used the ancient Shibori technique to formulate a honeycomb structured, quilted effect on a short dress in the material which was practically weightless. Most compelling of all her plisses was the line-printed Organza dresses; when one of the models lifted up the hem of her bounteous skirt, it could be realized that these lines were in fact straight and it was the intricate pleating that generated their morphus and meandering curves. It was this detail that completed the circle and returned us to the notion of patterns and cymatics, which as a philosophy requires a certain cognition to understand; unlike the universally ethereal and transparent beauty of Van Herpen’s fragile, balletic gowns.
Article: Charles Daniel McDonald
Photography & Video: Iris Van Herpen