Metal Lace, Transparent Tulle, and Laser Cutting: Iris van Herpen Shares the Fascinating Story Behind Her Fall ’17 Couture Collection

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“Although some people have the impression that I 3-D print whole collections, I would estimate that 80 percent of everything we make is by hand,” Iris van Herpen said . Van Herpen started her line 10 years ago with almost completely handmade clothing—she didn’t even own a sewing machine!—but was also the first to experiment with 3-D printing on the major runways. Her Fall ’17 Couture collection, shown in Paris on Monday, featured some of her most stunning 3-D-printed creations yet, including a few looks that toed the line between fashion and sculpture. Look 18, the Aeriform dress, was signature Van Herpen in its combination of high-tech innovation and incredible lightness—but you’ll be surprised to learn that it actually wasn’t 3-D printed. Here, she tells us the story behind the piece and what went into making it.

“Developing the material of the Aeriform dress was a process that took six months of trial and error with the architect Philip Beesley and his studio,” Van Herpen explains. “We tried 3-D printing for this dress and made printed molds to cast this pattern, but I wasn’t satisfied with the way it moved. So we stopped the 3-D printing and instead, we [decided to] laser cut the superfine metal [instead], which we then manipulated into half-sphere domes by hand. Because of this, I could create lots of volume and movement without the weight. After that, the domes were attached through heat-shrinking tubes and some bits were adjusted and fine-tuned with needle and thread. There is also silk tulle lining the inside, and to make it look seamless, the lining was hand-stitched from eight layers of tulle in a gradation.”

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