#SuzyPod: Iris Van Herpen In Motion With The Red Priestess
7 JULY 2020 for Vogue.co.uk
In Episode 11 of “Creative Conversations”, Suzy speaks to the imaginative and original designer as she collaborates with Game of Thrones actress Carice van Houten for a digital Haute Couture presentation
For this season’s Autumn/Winter 2020-21 Paris Haute Couture Week, the fashion industry has had to rethink how to present the collections, and each house has turned to submitting digital presentations instead of the traditional live-show format.
Iris Van Herpen is a free spirit who works equally with nature and science. Here she talks to me about the short film she has submitted to the Fédération de la Haute Couture. She called on Carice Van Houten, actress from Game of Thrones and a fellow Dutch woman, whom she sees as a muse, inspiration and collaborator. The fashion film they created is called Transmotion.
Van Houten plays a far more gentle character in Iris’s fashion performance than she does on Game of Thrones. “Iris’s work feels like it lifts you up and completes something in you, like a second skin and another dimension,” Carice says.
In our interview, Iris describes the ‘Transmotion’ couture dress that Carice wears as “a diaphanous bloom of silver white organza, and translucent layers within an undulating form, tracing the fluid outline of the creation”. Made by Iris under lockdown, its name refers to “visionary or creative perceptions of the seasons and the visual scenes of motion in art and literature”.
“I believe fashion has a big influence on who we are today and really reflects where we are heading, inspiring us to recreate ourselves and to re-see our identities and even how we perceive ourselves,” Iris says.
“The red hair was 50 per cent of my character,” Carice says of her GOT role as Melisandre, the Red Priestess. “I felt so empowered, and in fact the dress – which is the opposite of Iris’s dresses – was really restricting, but it definitely helped me to build that character.”
How will her costume, hair and make-up influence her return to her role in Temple, the British TV show she stars in with Mark Strong? “This is filming soon as it’s manageable to social distance on set. But I have curls in my hair in that show, I cannot do that by myself – it would be a mess!”
Iris’s couture film, directed by Ryan McDaniels, references Dutch graphic art and at the same time mirrors the Iris spirit, which mixes high modernity with history. Iris has called upon her Dutch heritage not only by using Carice – but also by referencing Dutch artist Escher as an influence.
Iris began showing in Paris in 2007 and I watched her move from Ready-to-Wear to Couture – which she unofficially calls “tech-couture”. In her hands, delicate embroideries and traditional techniques are “replaced by code”. The designer is even known for stating, “Tech just can’t keep up with me!”
Her extraordinary skill is in melding the soft and tough elements of the natural world with the forces of technology and innovation, merging art and science with craftsmanship and technology.
Using a diaphanous bloom of white silk organza, like fronds frozen in time, and delicate crystalline filaments that sprout from the centre, the ‘Transmotion’ dress is a masterpiece of couture. Combining the futuristic with the naturalistic, “branches” of satin are laser cut, but hand stitched, to form central roots like mycorrhizal networks.
With her deep knowledge of fashion, her understanding of science and her skill in melding the two different characters, Iris’s work links to creation, growth and regeneration. Add to that the woman-power expressed by Carice in the Iris film and in Game of Thrones. There is plenty to discover in this story about the film, the dress, the star and how all are close to Iris’s heart.