Iris van Herpen: When high fashion meets science

Updated 17th September 2018
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Iris van Herpen: When high fashion meets science
Written by CNN Staff
This video is a segment from the CNN Style show.
"I will show you the dragon skin dress." Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen walks through her Amsterdam-based studio to reveal a piece of clothing that both looks and sounds, almost magical.
But far from being made from the pelt of a mythological creature, this dress is constructed in the same way that many special effects masks in Hollywood movies are. Dragon Skin is a series of high-performance silicones.
"It's really like second skin," she explains.
Dragon Skin is just one of the ways van Herpen uses technology to create otherworldly fashion collections. In 2010 she was one of the first designers to create a 3D-printed dress. Since then, she's experimented with laser cutting, ultrasonic welding and magnetized fibers. She's even visited CERN for inspiration.
Iris van Herpen: When high fashion meets science
In addition to the perhaps obvious fans like Bjork and Lady Gaga, her pieces have been spotted on the likes of Kim Kardashian, Scarlett Johansson and Beyoncé.
Technology and fashion are now regular bedfellows, with a whole spectrum of innovations in wearable tech on offer, from the everyday (the Apple watch) to the fantastical (Lady Gaga's flying dress from 2013). van Herpen, however, is one of few designers marrying tech and couture.
"Some ateliers really go for the craft and some ateliers go for the technology, but I notice when we bring them together a lot more possibilities start to grow," she says.

Pioneering fashion

Van Herpen's pieces are not only impressive on a surface level -- from the fabrics used to the mode of construction. In dresses that look like bone, or water frozen in time, the technological methods are matched by imagination and creativity.
"I definitely think being in contact with scientists and people that are really specialized in technology opens up my world of thinking, and I can create different structures than I would if I had been in my own bubble," she says.
"I think once you isolate technology, on its own it becomes a very cold medium. But technology is handled by people, so all that matters is what you do with it."
Watch the video above for a look inside Iris van Herpen's high-tech studio.