Dutch designer Iris van Herpen is one of the most talked about and wildly fascinating designers of the decade. During her multifarious conversation with Eugene Rabkin, Editor and Creative Director at StyleZeitgeist Magazine, van Herpen explores her creative process, the inspiration behind her work, sustainability in Haute Couture, 3D printing and her unique collaborations.
Lady Gaga wearing Iris van Herpen for Apple music
At the beginning of this much-awaited Duets, van Herpen and Rabkin discuss the challenges and repercussions of the pandemic on fashion. “There’s a certain magic between people that is lost," shares Iris. "Inspiration is never the issue. Inspiration comes from so many sides. It can be a conversation with someone. It can be a walk in the city. It can be a book. It can be a piece of dance that you’re seeing. I don’t think that has changed.“
"Some people see fashion as a product. I see it as a language."
Vicki Zhao wearing Iris van Herpen for Madame Figaro China
Iris van Herpen also talks about her 3D printing techniques and unique collaborations with scientists and architects. “Certain scientists live on another planet and they can talk so beautiful of another world and it is limiting to me. But even if I get fragments or pictures of the film they’re trying to show me, it’s inspiring enough to bring my understanding into my own bubble. Even if it’s outside my comfort zone, it’s bringing me forward," she continues.
The young designer launched her label in 2007. A few years later, her 3D-printed dress turned heads at Amsterdam Fashion Week in 2010 and made TIME Magazine's list of the 50 Best of Inventions in 2011. The Dutch designer's vision is guided by inspirational women such as Lady Gaga, Cate Blanchett, Beyoncé, Scarlett Johansson and Naomi Campbell.
"I push the perception of the world we are in right now. Everything we create is here and now. Nothing is impossible and nothing lives in the future. There’s so much more possible than we imagine sometimes."
Iris van Herpen | Polimoda Duets #13
TRANSCRIPT | DUET WITH IRIS VAN HERPEN
Interviewer: Hi, everyone. I'm here with Iris van Herpen, widely considered one of the most exciting and creative designers working today not only in haute couture but in all of fashion. Wildly fascinating work that I've been following for a long, long time. I'm very happy, Iris, that you are here with us today.
Iris: Yes. Happy to be here.
Interviewer: Yes. I also want to add that there's a lot of interest in your work from the conversation I've had and everything I see but especially so from students. I think it's a doubly great that you're here talking to students. I wanted to start to see how you're doing and how you've been coping this year in 2020 [chuckles] with everything that's going on. Has that affected your work?
Iris: Of course, it has. I think it has affected everyone. To recall, the beginning was just really disorientating because of course we didn't know how to do the craftsmanship within the atelier. We had to work from home which is a really big challenge when things are so physical, the work is really physical. We had to be really creative there. Now, at least, we are able to work quietly in the atelier which is a big help to work on the collection. Still part of the team works from home so a lot of Zooming is now part of the daily reality.
I collaborate a lot with people from different disciplines. Normally, in the process, it's really important to visit each other, meet in real life, share samples. It's a quite intuitive process to work on material experiments and to have that physical interaction. Maybe it's more important even to me because I come from dance, it's that human interaction that is a big part of my work and obviously that is just different this year.
Again, even the collaborations with institutes or artists or architects, everything is done online which has its pros and cons, I would say. Saving a lot of time on traveling but on the other hand, there is a certain magic between people that is lost. We'll see when that is possible again.
Interviewer: I was thinking about it the other day, I was wondering, "How is Iris these days? How is she working?" I thought that also you do draw so much inspiration that you find online and in books. Now, you can do all of this research without leaving the home.
Iris: Inspiration is never the issue. I think inspiration comes from so many sites. It can be a conversation with someone. It can be a walk in the city. It can be a book, indeed. It can be a piece of dance that you are seeing. I don't think that has changed. It's actually interesting that there was more time for doing research which is really nice. Sometimes it's going from one show into the other and then it's really hard to really sit down and to go in-depth into a subject that I'm fascinated by. That was actually a really nice part of the lockdown this year that I had a lot of time reading and doing research.
Also, sustainability is a big part of my work so I'm doing experiments on the development of the materials. We actually were able to start up quite a few new collaborations because there was less time pressure on the collections. I think there are some really positive things that are coming out of this confinement, I would say.
Interviewer: That's cool. In a way, I feel that a creative mind actually should have some limitations, not limits, some parameters, otherwise you will be all over the place.
Iris: Yes, absolutely. Now it's part of my daily life because even the limitations on materials are defining all of my work, I would say. I think in the end, creativity always finds new ways. I think that's the essence of creativity. I think this year actually has been a very good learning curve [chuckles] to find different rhythms within the creative process of a collection. I really feel it has actually shaped me in a positive way.
Interviewer: Yes, in the end I feel still clothing, clothes are three dimensional and tactile, and in the end of the day we'll have to have the physical experience.
Iris: Yeah together, expressing ourselves is really up to an instrument, to say, explore who we are but also I think it's a collaborative moment that you want to share with someone or with more people. I think the point where everyone is forced to stay at home, I think, is one of the hardest fights I think professionally because you need to wait a moment.
Interviewer: I actually just realized I never asked you this before because your work is so visually striking and so unlike anything else that's out there. I would say probably 99% of the people have only seen it on a computer screen or in a book but how important is for you the physicality of the clothes?
Iris: Well, that is the ultimate experience of the work. It's tactile, it's three dimensional, it's in a constant transformation when it's in dialogue with the body. Because I come from dance, it's such an important part to experience it on our physical body and the identity of the woman that is wearing it and then at the end, it really comes to life. I think in a book, it has its beauty and in a museum, even it has its beauty. Even online, but it's two dimensional and often in a small scale. Ultimately, I think the only way to really feel what the work is about I think you need to see it in real life.
Interviewer: I was thinking about it, because I just-- Museums have reopened in New York. I've been to the Met and there are two of your dresses now at the Met on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in two different exhibitions.
You saw I sent you a picture of the skeleton dress.
Iris: No, I actually didn't know until you were sending me.
Interviewer: I saw that and I thought, "It's great but it's in a glass cube." I said, "Well,still people are missing something," because unless you see it on a body and in motion, you don't get the whole picture.
Iris: Exactly. A sculpture is designed to be static and to carry the message by just being there but I think a garment is different. It really is designed to speak and to interact with us. That is definitely something that you cannot show in a museum. At the same time, the way people can come close to the details, I think is very rare, because even when you would see someone wearing the garment, it's good to go up close to dive into it, to see all the details. That is a very special experience in a museum that at least it's there for you to look at and to come close and to be rude, sorry to say.
Interviewer: Yes, I agree. Another aspect of your clothes I think is motion, right? I feel like especially in your latest collections, the clothes just flow and motion is paramount. Again, even, of course, we have videos now so that gives us a better view into your work. You come, like you said, from dance. You were doing ballet during your teenage years.
Iris: I took on ballet, yes.
Interviewer: Now you do costumes for different ballet troops. I just saw the video for the Dutch National Ballet, that was incredible.
Iris: It's nice to still work together with dancers and choreographers because it's just incredible the amount of control dancers have between both their body and their mind, but also that transformative control of their body. It just keeps on fascinating me and it's really a big source of inspiration to the way I look at materials and the way we can really transcend our energy to-- I don't think our impacts to one another stops where our body stops. I think dance are symbolic to that freedom of form and emotion that we are sharing together. I really see fashion as a transformative tool. I think dance really symbolizes the power that we have within ourselves.
Interviewer: Have you ever found fashion a limiting medium for what you want to express?
Iris: Yes and no. I think for a lot of people, fashion can somewhat be shallow, or they really perceive it as a product and I've always seen fashion really as a language, as a form of art that really can say things about who we are, where we want to go to, where we come from, our culture, our values, our morals. It can say so much about ourselves. It's really a way I can talk to you without knowing you or without even directly interacting with you. I think it's just a really beautiful tool to express who we are.
I understand not everybody gets that and not everybody is within fashion. It's definitely something that I've been focusing on for quite a few years is how to express what fashion means to me and hopefully to inspire people to look at fashion in a different way and to see the symbolism within fashion but also the power of language within fashion.
Interviewer: Well, I always say that actually, fashion is not an easy medium for expression because in a way, the toolbox is quite limited as opposed to say poetry or art or visual art. In a way, it's quite a difficult task to express something when you are working with basically fabric and scissors [chuckles].
Iris: Yes, I think that's where an interesting topic comes up. I think that's why I'm collaborating with other disciplines because I think fashion needs to break outside of its own bubble to connect to the multiverse that we're living in.
I think fashion is in direct dialogue with architecture, art, science, philosophy, even poetry as long as we open our eyes to see the relationships between these disciplines and also to embed an open process like a creative process within designing the garments, I think. If you don't collaborate with other disciplines, it's easy to get stuck into the fabric and the scissor [chuckles] but there is so much more to do and there's so many more materials to explore and there's a whole future waiting for us.
I really relate to fashion as how we know our oceans, we've only explored 5% of them. I think that's the way I see fashion. We know so little as there is really a lot more possible than the fabric we know today.
Interviewer: Is that where the importance of doing a show for you comes in because it allows you to go beyond just you know fabric and scissors and really show the Iris van Herpen world?
Iris: Yes, I see the show as time capsules of where I could push, well, both concepts but also the techniques within the atelier and the materiality of the materials that we are developing. It's really a time capsule to show where fashion can be and what has been possible through collaboration and experimentation. Ultimately, to really show people a different side of fashion, a different perspective towards fashion. I think that's really the goal behind the show.
Interviewer: I think one of the many things where you're trailblazing, I think, is exactly the collaboration with scientists, and architects, as opposed to-- The usual routes for fashion designers are like, "I'm going to go to an artist, take some pattern from them, put it on the clothes, and announce to the world through a press release, here's a collaboration," and you go a completely different route. I don't think I can think of any other fashion designers who goes through scientists and architects and says, "Let's do something together."
Iris: It's interesting, it's really a collaboration on a mental level as well, really to take inspiration from the philosophy, from someone, the way of working, the process, the experiment, it's really going deep down. I can imagine for many people that would be too full on. It's quite a process and you really have to stand naked as an artist, because really, ultimately, any creative process is quite personal and it's fragile, and it's sensitive, and it's layered. Collaborating on that level is really a challenge.
I must say, I really became better at it through the years. In the beginning, it was much more indeed practical trying to merge two disciplines on the level of materiality or technicality, but throughout the years, I learned that the big value of collaboration is really on a mental level, on the level of knowledge and sharing intellect. It's a more complicated journey but I think the end result is so much more precious than just converting a print onto pattern.
Interviewer: I like what you said that you have to stand naked in the process of creation because in a way, you are trusting yourself into the hands of other people, and also people who might be speaking a very different language from you. Do you ever feel like you're in a room and you're like, "I'm out of my depth here or we're speaking completely--"
Iris: I'm outside of my comfort zone, for sure.
Example like, certain scientists, they live on another planet, and they can talk so beautifully on the world that they see and that is limited to me because obviously, I don't have all the knowledge that they have but at the same time, even if I get fragments, even if I get pictures of the film that they are trying to show me, it's inspiring enough to bring my understanding of my own bubble, my own discipline, the way I make garments. It's still influencing it. Even if it's scary, even if it's completely out of my comfort zone, it's bringing me forward, and that's why I keep on putting myself out there to make it.
Interviewer: They also have to trust in you.
Iris: That's the amazing part that I would not have imagined before diving into it now and then I would not imagine that there are scientists that are interested enough in fashion to start a dialogue with me. You will be surprised and there's really a lot of people out there that do also see that value of sharing knowledge because we quickly spoke about it early on the sustainability side of fashion, obviously, we have a long way to go with everyone together and fashion is not going to be able to move quick enough, I think, if it doesn't start up to collaborate more with other disciplines, including science, to bring the materiality and the technicality much broader. That's why these conversations are so important.
Interviewer: I guess at the end of the day, all materials are born in physics and chemistry, and you'll have to talk to them in order to get the most sustainable materials possible. Let's talk about sustainability a bit more because this is definitely a very hot topic since you brought it up [chuckles]. What have been your thoughts as of late on sustainability and how you are approaching it in your work?
Iris: It's interesting because we spoke about collaboration and I think the ultimate goal of where we need to go is to start a true collaboration with nature in every discipline on this planet. We're going to have to look at our process by a mimic sense and to instead of using--
Interviewer: Excuse me.
Iris: Bless you. Instead of using nature to really start collaborating with nature. Of course, that's a long way to go, but every step is important. That's one important reason that we are collaborating with different disciplines to improve the materiality and the technicality behind the work. Ultimately, that is the goal for at least my atelier and hopefully, for fashion as a whole to really make it sustainable from the very beginning to the very end in each step of the process and I think it's very possible, so I'm very optimistic on that side. At the same time, I do realize that for couture obviously, it's much more controllable because of the importance behind--
Interviewer: You're in a more sustainable part of fashion already [laughs].
Iris: That's true. Already the process, the whole foundation of couture is sustainable because you're not creating any garment that is not-- You're basically creating on demand, which is already a philosophy I think that we need to go to, in general. I think the whole pre-production system that we are used to today, I think can change through technology as well. I realize how long this road is going to be but I think as a couture designer, at least we can show different materiality and different techniques to hopefully inspire our technician team as well.
Interviewer: I want to go back to something you just said. You said sometimes you talk with the scientists and they live on another planet, but also they live on this planet. I've learned every time I read about your work, I'm always tempted, the word that comes to my mind is otherworldly, like your clothes from another world. I have to stop myself and say, "Iris specifically said many times that her work is not otherworldly, that it's very much of this world," so I have to erase that word and sit there for half an hour and think like, "Well, you have to describe it in another way."
I wanted to talk about that a little bit is that, on the one hand, you push the possibility of fashion to its outer edge.
Iris: I push the perception of the world we are in right now, I guess, because indeed you're talking about otherworldly, but everything we create is here and now. Nothing is impossible and nothing lives in the future. Even though you might place it in the future, it's possible here now and I think that's the message behind it. They are so much more possible than we imagine sometimes. Interestingly enough, we also don't live in one world, we all have created our own bubbles within this planet and we all have our own reality of how we perceive the world and I think that's where art I think takes an important play is to really show different perspectives to that same world we're living on. It's important to understand that there is no such thing as one reality, we all-- There's so many cultures, so many backgrounds, so many lives that are all creating a multiverse of realities. I think it's unhealthy to think of reality as something too concrete or too stable.
I think that's where it can really show us the multi price that is actually happening around us and that's maybe also where my work comes in is that it really shows perhaps a world that not everyone knows but that is really part of this world as well and show that there is a lot more possible than some people can see in front of their eyes.
Interviewer: I think in a roundabout way, we get that validation of your work, actually, I just thought about it, when we see it on celebrities because a lot of your work shows up on the red carpet but on some level, it's where we also display what's possible because it's a very special thing. I've never really thought of it that way because I always like the moment they hear the words red carpet I want to run as far as possible but it's also we have to recognize that that's what it's for sometimes.
Iris: Yes, all these bubbles can overlay each other because certain actors on a red carpet has a whole backstory for a certain person relating to a movie or a different storyline, and then in combination with indeed the otherworldliness of my work, it can really create another universe on its own. It really makes people see and dream in a different way and achieve reality, maybe a tiny little different than before and that's the power that fashion and even though the film industry can have because you can really transcend the imagination of someone.
Interviewer: Well, it's exactly that to me. It's about transcending. They are transcendental moments because they are showing like, this is possible and it's real.
Iris: It's a real moment that is shared by a lot of people at the same time and that's a beautiful way of celebrating art.
Interviewer: Because I also think a lot of people are so hung up on the utility of fashion they sometimes forget that before we get to the utility, we also have to consider how do we push the realm of possibility?
Iris: Exactly. Yes.
Interviewer: I want to backtrack a bit because we are talking to students, and I know we've spoken about it but I'm sure they'll be very curious about how you started and what was going through your mind and how you develop your aesthetic and your work methods and the whole Iris Van Herpen universe.
Iris: Now the start was very intuitive and primitive, and simple in a way. I didn't plan ahead for many years. I started my label in 2007 and it was just me. Along the way, of course, I was able to expand the atelier but in the beginning, it was really me doing the design, the handwork, even the preparation of the first show I was doing in Amsterdam. It was very simple and not really a company yet, but I really took the time to let it grow organically and I'm really happy for that because it gave me a lot of freedom in the long run. There wasn't a big investment behind it or a business plan, which has its pros and cons, I would say.
On one hand, I think when I look back, it was pretty naïve, but at the same time, to give it time and to make it grow organically, gave me a room to develop as an artist, and to know more and more my ways of working. I think that's how I was able to find the preciousness within collaboration with other disciplines but also the preciousness of experimentation, and the layering between craftsmanship and technology.
All the elements, I think that are essential to my work today have really been discovered because I could do it within my own pace. I'm really grateful that it all happened the way it happened and that I had not too many people saying what I should do, or the way I should do it because as a designer, if you start your own label, it will come in many different forms. All the time, people don't know how to do it, but just always remember, there is not a single road to Rome and there's a lot of different ways of thinking about fashion or creating fashion.
I think especially at this moment where fashion as a whole is transforming, and actually looking for a new system, for a new way of producing, for a new way of designing, for a new philosophy almost, behind everything we do or maybe fashion as a whole is looking for a deeper sense. I think, especially now, fashion needs the young generation to show a different path, to show a different perspective.
Therefore, I think it's really important for everyone who thinks of starting his or her own label to really stay true to yourself, to think of the future of fashion and to think of how you would do it differently and find a balance. Listen to people that have done it before you, take the knowledge and experience that is in there, but not try to copy it because I don't think fashion will be what it is as we know it today in 10 or 20 years. We really are hungry for new perspectives in that sense.
Interviewer: I hope so too. I really hope new directions will be discovered. On some level, I feel like it's harder than it was before-
Iris: I think so too.
Interviewer: to come up with a radically new aesthetic on the one hand, the way you've done, and on the other hand to go up against the quite strong forces of commercial constraints and marketing culture that makes it harder for younger designers to compete with a handful of very big brands that are hogging that space. Going back through the history of your work, it's like, I feel like you've never compromised in your aesthetic in the way you work, in the way you put on shows and you've remained in Amsterdam, which I love.
I think it's great and now I feel like people are coming to you for collaboration.
Iris: I think an interesting part that it's possible nowadays and I think we think that technology in the end, that it is possible to run a label from Amsterdam, because the world has become tiny in that sense. Indeed, people are able to travel, not this year so much, but normally, indeed, our clients they come from all over the world. I think there's beauty in having to be boxed by just two or three cities on this planet. I think the place where you are has a lot of influence on the creative cultures and if we would all be at the same place, that I don't think would create the diversity that we need today. I think it's good that designers can be at different places in the world at the same time.
Interviewer: I think what you just said, diversity, diversity of fashion voices and fashion is so important, otherwise, we will live in a very homogenized world, which on some level, I feel, I don't know, do you feel this dichotomy? I feel that on the one hand, we have more information than ever before, on the other hand I feel it's become harder and harder to actually find it because the surface is so homogenized. I've seen people everywhere.
Iris: It's exactly what you're saying. I think it's the overkill of information that it's impossible for us to go through so then you end up indeed in the pre-selected world.
Interviewer: Everyone is on the same first five pages on Google search, how do you fight for the--
Iris: Our mind is slowly going to be shaped by algorithms, whether you like it or not.
Interviewer: How do you fight through that barrier?
Iris: Good question, I don't even know if I am.
Interviewer: I feel like you are because every time I see a collection and I read the notes, I'm learning something. I'm like, "Here's the artist I never knew about. Here's an architect I never knew about."
Iris: I think the diversity of your choices is important. I find inspiration directly around me from the city I am, but also conversations I'm having like with you and other people, with collaborators that I'm working with for a long time, they will introduce me to people I never knew about before. Of course, I do my research through Google as well online or even through a social platform, but I think it's just important that you have a lot of different sources to look at. Books is another realm, again, then YouTube show, it's just really important to take time for different people to look with your eyes fairly wide open and to try to look at the things you would normally overlook.
It doesn't come naturally, like you say, it's easy to live in a preselected world, but I think when you take a bit of time, it's very possible to dive to another universe.
Interviewer: I think now is the time in our conversation to tell students to go to the library and look at books, because I feel it's become such an overlooked resource. I don't know how you feel, but for me, the internet has never quite solved the problem of browsing, but I always feel when I'm in the library, is just very different, you can stumble upon more.
Iris: Exactly. It's a bit more of a natural flow because really doing research on for example, Google, or online, then the biggest frustration for me is the overkill, you never feel satisfied because there's always that one click further. I think there's a very different energy when you're in a library, for example, or even in a museum. It's a slower pace, it's a different attention span, and it's not unlimited and I think that's the beauty behind it. It's a different way of discovering the things around you and you take a bit more time to the subjects that you're looking at. That's why I think you-- It just feels more inspiring to me often.
Interviewer: Yes, I agree. I also think museums are overlooked often as a source of inspiration. You have some great ones in Amsterdam.
Iris: It's really a different attention span when I walk into a bookstore or I'm in a museum. I know that I'm going to be there for a while and I don't have other things going on at the same time. I think that's one of the issues. By doing research online you're always doing something else on the side or it's a different attention span.
Interviewer: I want to switch gears a little bit and talk a bit about materials that you use because they're such an important part of your craft. When I was writing my notes, I put the word fabric down and then I thought, "Well, actually, that's probably not a good word to describe the materials that Iris uses."
Iris: Are those other fabrics involved? You weren't bogged down. That's actually interesting that some people might think that everything is really printed.
Interviewer: We have to dispel that myth for sure.
Iris: That's still a question I get sometimes. I know not everything is really printed. It's only one of the hundred tools that are in use and a lot of classic fabrics like shelves, curtains, or blinds are being used in the collections, but it's just more than just the fabric to me now.
Interviewer: I think it's really that marriage of the traditional fabrics and new material as well as actually very traditional craftsmanship methods where the new methods is really the crux of your work.
Iris: Yes, absolutely. I think the combination of traditional craftsmanship with the tools and technologies that is available today, really to me, creates the ultimate freedom of form. I remember just after the Academy or maybe already on the Academy is that every fabric obviously has its identity and requires a certain way of patternmaking, a certain way being short in movement.
It just felt that I couldn't express the sensitivity or the layering that is within my mind or the way I perceive fashion. It's just very layered. I think fashion needs to express where we are as a human being today. I think that marriage between our past and our future is really important and that's why I feel the materiality and the technicality during the work also needs to reflect that.
It would be expressing the past if we would only use the traditional craftsmanship that has been invented 100 years ago but at the same time, it would be limiting to only think of fashion within the newer tools of laser cutting or 3D printing or even 4D printing as that doesn't show the journey of identity that we have been developing as a culture or as people. It really feels like a yin and a yang as a whole, as a tool expression, as a tool reality of where we stand as people nowadays to combine all the tools we have.
Interviewer: Yes, I agree. I feel that any art form should be a reflection of the world we live in today. That's one of the success metrics.
Iris: Yes, and the multiplicity of our reality, I guess.
Interviewer: Exactly. We need to dispel that myth that everything's 3D printed because so the several times I've been to ateliers, there's just so much traditional handwork going on. Really just hand sewing, the film panels onto the fabric, and things like that.
Interviewer: Also traditional techniques like Shibori or traditional weaving techniques. It's all in there, but it's being layered with other tools and other techniques that we've explored. I think that is really what makes it possible to go three dimensional, but at the same time, really do embody their movement and the transformation and the softness that is the femininity that is being expressed in a way.
Iris: I was going to ask you about that. I was looking over the history of your shows again, and I thought the older work is much harder. I don't want to say it's much more sculpture-- Actually the way I would put it, it was always sculptural, but it was sculpture made from hard materials. It's still sculptural now, but now it's made from flowing soft materials.
Interviewer: Exactly. Three-dimensionality and layering, that is something that is really part of my DNA. That is something that is the transformation, the metamorphosis, the movement, they are subjects that I've been trying to discover for 13 years now. The skills obviously have evolved and the layering of tools and techniques the materials have evolved and evolved and evolved, and it's like evolution. I just feel like I'm closer and closer to how I envisioned fashion.
I don't even think the full picture is there yet because of course, it's still a work in progress, but if I look back at the work, in the beginning, the philosophy is there, in my DNA is there, but the skills haven't evolved the way they have today. It's an interesting journey or evolution of craftsmanship. You can call it to look at the work throughout the years. I'm also a new tool, especially taking time to make it your own, like 3D printing. When I started working with it, I knew the potential within it.
I really wanted to work with it but the materiality was only developed for the industries like architecture and design. The flexible materials weren't available at that time. I had to come up with solutions like print really fine lines to create somewhat of a flexibility, but often it was very limited, but still it was worth doing it because working with the printing at that time gave me the time to develop the printing over time. Now we are so skilled with printing that people cannot see the difference anymore whether it's handmade or printed.
Even in the atelier, we can decide which technique we use but it takes time. The same with craftsmanship or even the sewing machine, you need years and years to make it your own.
I always notice it's the same with the technique as with the material, in the beginning, it shapes you, and after so much time, you are shaping material or the technique. There's this turning point and that is one of the most exciting point of the process where you can feel it in your whole body, you can feel the turning point that now I'm controlling you instead of the other way round. Most, it takes many years, and patience is definitely a big part of the journey.
Interviewer: I think that's what's missing a lot in fashion today where students are taught a lot of like, "Well, the way designer works is you draw some stuff, and then you hand it over and someone else makes it."
Iris: That's a fairy tale that I also learned the hard way and it was actually through my internships, I started to realize how much time goes into a piece of craftsmanship on itself, like how much time it takes. After the Academy, I also learned more and more in finding that patience within myself and to not think too much of the outcome only because I think that's very limited as a designer.
I think you need to love the process if you develop yourself. It's a different mindset, and that's definitely not what I realized when I started off as a designer studying fashion design, because you're trying to think as a designer indeed to make a sketch and then you're done but it just doesn't work that way. You have to get familiar to the paint, so to say, as a painter.
Interviewer: Well, since your baby needs your attention, I'm going to ask you a last thing, and then I think we can wrap up. I think also, a lot of people would be curious just about a single day at the Iris van Herpen, Italia. How does that go?
Iris: Well, the good thing is there is not such a thing as a single day in [laugh] unfortunately, sometimes. My mind shifts from many different places because it goes from my collaboration to the atelier. I feel very lucky that I'm always close to the RTA. I'm always part of the ever-going process, which is really nice. It's also a disadvantage because I don't hand over that sketch and then the atelier does it. It's really a wave, and then it evolves, and then they start making it and I might change something again. Which makes it a bit more chaotic than some other processes but it is making it really exciting.
When I am starting on a collection, I have no idea about the outcome, no one has the atelier. It's really a journey that we're having together. Every day therefore is different and it's super collaborative. It's really a symbiotic whole, so to say, and I think that's very rare. I don't think this RTA is very comparable to any other RTA in that sense. It's a very precious process. Throughout the years, I have focused more and more on the process and less and less on the outcome because I think that's really the basics of it all. That you have to really appreciate the process more than the outcome, otherwise, you're going to be disappointed always.
Interviewer: I actually love that idea that letting the process guide you to the outcome.
Iris: The outcome is, obviously for everyone around us but the process is really for us and for everyone in the RTA. It's almost like the shows are the celebration of the process that we've gone through.
Interviewer: That's actually a great way to see your work. Well, I think it's a wonderful note to finish on. Well, thank you, Iris. Thank you for doing this for us. I appreciate you. Take care.
Iris: Take care. See you.