Iris Van Herpen’s ethereal designs are the vanguard of haute couture, focusing on craftsmanship and innovation, the Dutch couturier works at the nexus of fashion, design, science, and technology. Van Herpen recently collaborated with French artist, choreographer, and underwater filmmaker Julie Gautier to create a film exploring the idea of femininity and female beauty as a form of control. Titled Carte Blanche, the film is an ode to the ongoing resilience and strength of Iranian women whose bodies have served as a battlefield for religious and political ideologies. A portrayal of female bravery, Carte Blanche is a testament to how women can use their physicality and strength to resist oppression and fight for their rights.
Last week, Van Herpen challenged couture’s sometimes fusty culture by choosing to unveil her Spring 2023 haute couture collection in a digital platform, allowing for more creative freedom and storytelling, at a time when her peers are passionately re-committing to post-pandemic live events. Van Herpen felt like she could not possibly embody the emotional aspect attached to her new collection on the runway, and further revealed that the collection was always intended to be worn underwater as a symbolic reference to female protest. “Partly, it’s an ode to the demonstrations in Iran, because I really believe that it’s a movement that we need to support globally,” she said when talking to Vogue. “I chose the medium of going underwater mainly because it requires a different strength, and it takes away our voice.”

Van Herpen’s artistry and dedication are vivid throughout all of her collections, holding a unique place within the fashion firmament, her clothes come to life through movement, new technology and superlative hand-crafted expertise creating garments which encapsulate stories of courage, resistance, and freedom. Inspired by womanly bravery and perseverance, Van Herpen and Gautier use the symbolism of water to fully immerse themselves and subdue the female shape into a choreography that slowly disembodies control in the absence of gravity. She manages to shape an ecosystem of freedom which encapsulates nymph-like mythical creatures, as the sensual narrative unfolds, and we are met with a forceful composition of sublime serenity revealing the power of the female body and its ability to challenge the status quo.

“The red heart of this female ocean drifts down alone into the deep depths of her own consciousness where she dances a journey of isolation and oppression moving into resilience and invincibility.” As couture week unfolds in the French fashion capital, Van Herpen hopes that her latest collection will remind fashion connoisseurs of the brave female Iranian woman and protestors fighting for freedom with their lives, feeling voiceless and trapped underwater. “For some people, fashion is just clothes. But it’s so much more than that. Fashion is a very personal way to talk about our identity, our culture, and our values. As a designer, it feels important to me to show people the wider perspective.”
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