MOLLY SJ LOWE; GIO STAIANO; MYRTHE GIESBERS
Style Points is a weekly column about how fashion intersects with the wider world.The designer Iris van Herpen recently became fascinated by what scientists call the “wood wide web,” the communication network used by fungi to send messages between plants—think of it as nature’s answer to the Internet. After stumbling across Entangled Life, a book by the plant scientist Merlin Sheldrake, she decided to turn this vast underground array of information-delivering filaments—which she describes as “a huge communication system, like the brain of the earth”—into fodder for her latest couture collection, titled Roots of Rebirth.The fusing of nature with technology—and the revelation that the two have more in common than we typically think—is the foundation of van Herpen’s work. The designer has harnessed everything from iron filings to “dragon skin,” a type of silicone used by the military as body armor, to create her stunning, otherworldly designs. She maintains a scientific detachment from the Sturm und Drang of the fashion world, collaborating with biologists and programmers rather than influencers, and refers to her couture atelier as a “laboratory” for experimentation. “She draws a lot of inspiration from the natural world,” says her friend Cyrill Gutsch, founder and CEO of Parley for the Oceans, and regards it “in a way that others don’t see nature—the construction and the ingenuity behind it.”
Looks from Iris van Herpen’s spring 2021 couture collection.
Molly SJ Lowe
You might associate couture with all things Luddite, built as it is on painstaking embroideries and delicate lace, but van Herpen finds her futuristic techniques to be just as viable. “Craftsmanship and couture has always been about innovation,” she says. “We tend to forget about it sometimes. But if we think of very traditional techniques, like early lacemaking, or even the sewing machine—at the time, they were highly innovative.”
A look from “Roots of Rebirth.”
Van Herpen tells me her goal is to eventually make her collections from 100% recycled materials. The theme of this show, she says, “connects really beautifully to the sustainability focus that I’ve been diving into, because…