Category Archives: Couture Design

Ever thought of the zipper as cutting edge technology?

At work (Carnegie Museum of Art) we are getting ready to say goodbye to Iris Van Herpen: Transforming Fashion. It’s been fun and exciting to be a part of this exhibit and I will miss getting the chance to be up close and personal with 45 of her amazing dresses!

While I found Van Herpen’s use of technology a bit intimidating at first, the fashion industry has always taken advantage of technological advancements, and while each step was surprising for consumers at the time, with time, these move into the typical tools used for the job. Van Herpen was the first designer to create and present a garment that was 3-D printed and now that technique is becoming much more common on the runway and there are online stores that sell very basic 3-D printed garments at modest price points. Other examples of breakthrough technologies throughout the history of fashion are interesting to consider, and some of these may look extremely simple to our 21st century eyes.

Yes, once upon a time, even the humble zipper was state of the art technology! And I think it is a perfect example of an impressive advancement that is now in everyday use. The book Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty by Robert Freidel takes a close look at the history of something we use everyday and probably only think about when it gets stuck!

When the zipper was first invented, language in the patent suggested that it would be good for footwear, and maybe for gloves. Goodyear was an early manufacturer to try them out in their line of rain boots during the 1920s and some of the more adventurous fashion designers soon followed with fashion forward designs that presented the zipper in headlining ways. Elsa Schiaparelli was a leader in this effort.

By the early 1930s, she was incorporating color coordinating plastic zippers into her dress designs. It may sound strange now, but in the mid 1930s, zippers created a bit of a sensation. Schiaparelli herself wrote:

“Sciap, catching the mood, showed regal clothes embroidered with pearls or daringly striped, but what upset the poor, breathless reporters most were the zips. Not only did they appear for the first time, but in the most unexpected places, even on evening clothes. The whole collection was full of them . Astounded buyers bought and bought. They had come prepared for every kind of strange button. Indeed these had been the signature of the house. But they were not prepared for zips.”

Iris Van Herpen!! What? You’ve never heard of her?

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The depth of Van Herpen’s handwork is astounding. Those sheets of water are actually a part of the dress, and they are plastic manipulated by hand to create the look of splashing water. The rolled leather and metal chains are also created by hand.

I’m learning a lot about Iris Van Herpen right now, in preparation for the incredible fashion exhibit (Iris Van Herpen: Transforming Fashion) opening at my new workplace, the Carnegie Museum of Art, in February.

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Believe it or not, this fabric is made from metal gauze! Van Herpen collaborates with textile manufacturers and other artists to create the materials for her designs.

This is a traveling show, curated by the High Museum in Atlanta and the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands so the dresses are already selected and the text is already written, but there are always tasks along the way that require even the curatorial assistant to become knowledgeable about the details of an exhibit.

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Of course glass bubbles, coated in silicone are a perfect dress material 🙂

I’m so excited to get the chance to see a gallery space get prepped from the bottom up and installed with 45 couture dresses and all of the fancy lighting to show them off to their fullest!! January is going to be a dream.

(Source: Showstudio.com)
This is Iris Van Herpen (Source: Showstudio.com)

Iris Van Herpen is a young, dutch fashion designer who has an incredible eye for unusual materials, the use of cutting edge technology (like 3-D printing a dress!) and painstakingly beautiful handwork. She’s dressed Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Bjork!

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A little more wearable—Van Herpen has created a ready-to-wear line since 2013. This pulls technical elements and materials from her couture collection and uses them in slightly more practical ways.

 

The Manus X Machina at the Met over the summer featured several of Van Herpen’s designs. This post is just an appetizer.  I’m going to write more about Van Herpen here— as I learn about her. We’ll learn about her work together, and I’ll squeeze in as many gorgeous dress pictures as I can find.