The designer Iris van Herpen does not like computers, and for half of her adult life, she happily did not have one.

This is unusual because Van Herpen is only 34, and many people would argue that she is the most technically astute and adventurous designer working today.

The mesmeric Daphne Groeneveld wearing Iris van Herpen ‘Syntopia’.

Source: Instagram

She creates clothes to wear six months from now, but she also delves into sciences that may not be mainstream for six years – or even six decades.

While many designers work with artists and musicians to produce lyrical and even majestic collections, Van Herpen is more inclined to work with computer programmers, nano-robotics scientists and biologists.

Other designers experiment with lacquered textiles and laser-cut details to create variations on a familiar silhouette, or they use holograms and lasers to enhance their runway presentations.

But Van Herpen embraces technology as a means to an unknown end.

@iamsabaah floating upstream into Syntopia.
Source: Instagram

She has “grown” garments from magnetic fabric, pulled and twisted into something geological, organic and strangely beautiful.

On the runway, it looked as though Van Herpen’s model was wearing a meteor, one observer noted. She has formed faux ice crystals from rubber. She has created dresses that appear electrified and others that resemble water captured mid-splash.

The ‘Magnetic Motion’ shoes are handmade with magnetic powder, a liquid resin and magnets, to “grow” the shoes using the magnetic fields. Due to the nature of magnetic growth, no two shoes are alike.

Source: Instagram

She is best known for her work with 3D printers – not simply to create bits of decoration or to mould a striking heel but to realise concepts that don’t look like clothes at all.

Or at least not the way in which “clothes” are defined. One of her most striking experiments with a 3D printer resulted in garments that hang on the body like an exoskeleton – an idea that makes one reconsider what it means to be clothed, to be naked, to be human.

Her clothes have been worn by provocateurs such as Lady Gaga, Bjork and Beyoncé, as well as lesser-known eccentrics. But they have not been adopted by the well-to-do ladies of the philanthropic set.

Shoppers will not find her clothes at Bloomingdale’s or Bergdorf Goodman. (They are found most easily on These frocks tend to ignite the intellect and confound the eye.

And the questions they pose are more likely to be favoured by museums than department stores.

Jean-Baptiste Mondino captured the  ‘Ludi Naturae’ Couture collection wondrously, shot inside the atelier of the collaborating artist Peter Gentenaar. 

Source: Instagram

Robin Givhan is a staff writer and the Washington Post fashion critic, covering fashion as a business, as a cultural institution and as pure pleasure.

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