Whilst the blog has been on the sparse side of things, my first properly full haute couture week in Paris has not. A one-plus day absence makes me itch and now there are blog posts aplenty mounting, all to do with FANCY. As in, how fancy everything is in haute couture. Essentially it's been three and a half days of taking in completely unnecessary, highly indulgent and pure and unadulterated fanciness. There's nothing "easy" about most of the things I've seen and for that I'm grateful. Relevance can be pushed aside for the moment and instead, the goal is to feast the eyes with an excess of craftsmanship, decoration and boundless creativity.
First up a revisit to Dutch fashion visionary Iris Van Herpen, who has always operated in her own haute couture sphere, pushing innovative techniques. She has started to dip her toes into ready-to-wear (modelled by Grimes no less) but it's her off-the-cuff haute couture shows which have earnt her something of a cult following. When I went to her show two years ago, she had just begun to experiment with 3-D printing involving .mgx files and a Belgian company called Materialise. Thanks to EU research funding, what started as a university spin-off has grown to a multinational company. Last time she created cage-like structures from 3-d printing. This time, she has created a real soft garment – a seamless and made-to-measure dress with transparent bone-like structures produced with Materialise's mammoth stereolithography machine aka the "printer" as it were that can produce one large piece layer by layer. What should have been a dress with multiple steps and complicated processes if made tradtionally has now been brought to life through 3-D printing in one swift motion, as one single piece.
Here comes the science…
The design was first created on a computer before being optimised for 3D printing using Materialise software. At this point flaws or obstacles were fixed before work continued and the design was sent to the printer. The design was then brought to life using Mammoth Stereolithography, which creates objects layer by layer. UV lasers scan the design into a liquid resin that hardens wherever the laser hits and the 3D object gradually comes to life.
Van Herpen therefore makes another great leap towards establishing 3-D printing as a clearly possible and maybe even inevitable method for the manufacturing of unique pieces of clothing that can be brought to market quickly. Obviously Van Herpen isn't using the technique for that reason in her haute couture collections but she is subverting the parameters of couture by employing a machine to create a piece that arguably can't be created by the "petite mains" no matter how skilled that person was, just by nature of the materials used. The dress here and the neckpiece paired with a texturised silicone cage dress are the results of Van Herpen's latest foray into 3-D printing by Materialise.
In the rest of the collection Van Herpen continues to carve out her own niche of boundary pushing techniques, which meld with the natural and organic world. Moulded silicone that looks like rubberised fossils, silk frayed into shaking tree branches, intricate laser cutting and metal worked into dresses like spines running all over the body. Van Herpen continues to work with United Nude on the shoe front (the Dutch shoe brand has just debuted a sci-fi-fantasy shoe collaboration with Zaha Hadid so innovation seems to be abound). The most brilliant stroke of an ensemble in the collection definitely belonged to the two-headed bird dress constructed out of cut pailette fronds. Like I said, FANCY. In fact, maybe fancy doesn't quite cut it. Try out-of-this-world fantastical. It was certainly a fleeting sight that should only exist in rarified form, something which Van Herpen excels at.
Backstage photography by Morgan O'Donovan