PD Day in Toronto – Part Two – Iris Van Herpen

After leaving the Aga Khan at 6:10, we drove 40 minutes south to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), arriving with a few minutes to spare for the 7:00 start of an event featuring Iris Van Herpen (pronounced Eeris Van Hairpen) and an exhibition of her work. Transforming Fashion will open Saturday at the ROM and continue until October 8. I have to say that without doubt, this is the most suitable exhibition  ever to appear in the ROM Crystal textile galleries – FINALLY the architecture of the Crystal compliments an exhibition!

‘Air’ is the theme of this metal bubble dress, commissioned by the ROM from Van Herpen, and currently on display under Beesley’s kinetic fly trap sculpture.

Hard plastic dress… not my favourite, but still amazing

We bought tickets for this event a few weeks ago, and for $20.00 we got a preview of the exhibition, wine and nibbles, and a 45 minute audience, along with 400 other people, with Iris Van Herpen as she was being interviewed in conversation. That’s a lot of bang for twenty bucks.

I have seen pictures of everything Iris has done, but viewing them in person is a completely different experience. I was surprised to find her 3D printed pieces hard like a plastic model kit. I copped a feel of a spikey dress (see right) when nobody was looking and it was skeletal armor – sci-fi couture for clients like Bjork and Lady Gaga – these aren’t pieces that will get picked up by Saks anytime soon. Is it pretty? I think so — but is it fashion? maybe not, but this show is about ideas, not wearability. There were more wearable pieces using traditional sewing techniques, like the two dresses pictured below. I stared at one dress for several minutes trying to figure out how she made it, I should have been able to figure it out — I couldn’t.

Everything Van Herpen does hasn’t been done before, she’s not ripping off anybody else’s ideas or reviving some old look. She is at the edge of the future, and she isn’t doing it alone. Van Herpen collaborates with other artists, like architect Philip Beesley who had a kinetic sculpture hovering over the exhibition, like a Venus fly trap from the set of Barbarella.

Iris Van Herpen’s clothes make you think and question what is fashion — and beauty, and what will be… This is a show not to be missed.

…Part Three – Italian Surprise

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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