They say that art imitates life. For most artists this refers to the human experience, but for Dutch designer Iris van Herpen, art reflects life on a more elemental level, aided by thoroughly modern technology.

It may sound like something from a sci-fi film, but buying clothes that you can customize to your body, which are then printed out – yes, printed – is very much a present-day reality.

Enter the world of 3-D printing, where fashion and technology merge to create a strange new hybrid. The current science allows any design to be printed from a variety of materials. Continuum, a clothing company based in San Francisco, has enabled its customers to create bikinis designed to their specific measurements and printed out of nylon on their 3-D printers.

And nylon is just the beginning. Garments can be printed in metal mesh, as Iris van Herpen has done, and in a new material developed specifically for fashion. This brave new fabrication, TPU-92A-1, is said to be cushioning, elastic, and lightweight.

To classify van Herpen’s designs as cutting edge would be an understatement. The designer manages to marry the latest in 3-D printing technology to her otherworldly creations, resulting in what could be described as wearable sculpture.

Van Herpen studied at the prestigious ArtEZ Institute of Arts in Arnhem, Netherlands, later interning with Alexander McQueen. His influence can be seen in her fantastical and artful conceptions.

Although she introduced her label in 2007, it was van Herpen’s history-making 2010 Crystallization Collection that marked the first time that a 3-D printed design was worn on the runway. The collection, inspired by the transformation of water into crystals, resulted from a partnership with artist Daniel Widrig and New York company .MGX by Materialise that fabricated the designs as 3-D printed apparel. The collection garnered much praise, most notably being named one of “50 Best Innovations” of the year by Time Magazine.

These masterpieces of modernity are the result of a true collaboration between artist and science, and the outcome is completely captivating couture. The futuristic collections may be just that … the future of fashion.

Some history:


September 2009, London Fashion Week

The inspiration behind this avant-garde collection is a question of vision. Van Herpen wondered what would happen if we could actually see the electromagnetic waves and digital information streams that bombard and envelop us daily.

Her imagination gave rise to a fantastic assortment of undulating, body-hugging waves brought to life as garments in metallic and neutral tones. They are both space-age fashion and sculpture, representing van Herpen’s take on what it would look like if our bodies had the ability to attract and repel those invisible streams of radiation like human magnets.


Spring/Summer 2011, Paris Haute Couture Week

Iris van Herpen made her leap into Paris Haute Couture Week with this collection in 2011, aptly named Capriole – the French word meaning “leap in the air.” Along with highlights from previous works, this new collection also presented remarkable outfits that evoke the feeling just before and during a free-fall parachute jump.


Spring/Summer 2015 Ready-to-Wear

Van Herpen’s latest collection, began with a trip to visit the Large Hadron Collider in Cern, Switzerland – the largest single machine in the world.

The beautifully complex details of metal and magnets proved inspirational to van Herpen, who took the visuals and the science back to her own lab and conceived her designs, brought to life again with advanced technology.

Together with Canadian architect Philip Beesley and Dutch artist Jolan van der Wiel, the designer employed techniques such as injection molding, laser cutting, 3-D printing, and intricate architectural handwork to achieve the interplay of shadow and light. The metal on the dresses was manipulated and shaped using magnets – meaning that each one is unique.

She described her vision for the collection, saying, “I find beauty in the continual shaping of chaos, which clearly embodies the primordial power of nature’s performance.”

THE CALL FOR CREATIVITY in fashion is particularly high among musical artists, so it isn’t surprising to find van Herpen’s garments on the likes of Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, and Björk.


Where to find it:

Tomorrow Ltd.

See the video of how it’s done by clicking here.