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Soul-shifting fashion

Swatches | June 1, 2019 | By:

Fashion designer Iris van Herpen is known for pushing boundaries. The Amsterdam-based designer exploits symbiotic relationships, using highly technical methods, including 3D printing and laser cutting, to create expansive, even tumultuous designs that seem to flow from her imagination.

For her latest collection, Shift Souls, van Herpen found inspiration in celestial cartography, Japanese mythology and advances in DNA engineering that raise the question of the evolution of the human shape. 

Shift Souls consists of 18 designs—some described as harmonic and others as symbiotic. The harmonic pieces are voluminous spheroid dresses that reveal vibrant patterns through translucent gradient-dyed, hand-pleated organza. The symbiotic designs are sculptural, consisting of multilayered gradient-dyed silks in dimensional color gradations formed into hybrid bird shapes using a fine 3D laser-cut frame of PETG (polyethylene terephthalate glycol). 

For some pieces, the fabric is heat-bonded within frames of laser-cut Mylar®, creating surreal anatomies hiding and revealing anamorphic faces that smoke around the body in three dimensional “wave drawings.” One technique, called the “Galactic glitch,” involves heat-bonding cloud-printed silk to Mylar and laser-cutting it into the finest lace of thousands of 0.5 mm “harmonica waves.” The intricate design creates quivering reverberations of movement. 

Van Herpen’s “Cosmica” looks are inspired by artist Kim Keever, the aquatic expressionist who merges painting and photography to create large-scale photos of liquid clouds of colors. The designs feature Keever’s vaporous colored clouds printed on translucent organza and layered into nebulous multidimensional prints. For information, visit

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