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Surreal, mind-bending, freaky: Iris Van Herpen’s clothes stepped out of your dreams

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One in a series on the clothes that had a big moment at Paris Fashion Week.

PARIS — Iris van Herpen is messing with your head.

The collection that she designed for fall 2016 is called “Lucid,” and it’s based on the idea of a conscious dream state during which sleepers can direct their own dreams. This manifested as a presentation in which models stood behind optical light screens and slowly shifted from one pose into another. The result was a disconcerting illusion in which an “awake” model seems to be engaged in a pas de deux with her sleeping self.

Iris van Herpen’s astonishing designs don’t look like ‘clothes.’ They look like the future.

The image is supremely unsettling and fascinating. The technical term must surely be “freaky.”

Herpen was inspired by her own design technique — the way in which she drapes fabric in an almost unconscious manner. It sparked the idea of being able to converse with her own  unconscious.

In addition to the engaging light tricks, van Herpen continued to use 3D printing in her work, crafting dresses that look as though sea creatures have sprouted around the skirt. Her extraordinary draping skills are on display in hand-pleated dresses that surround the body like a protective shell but draw the eye closer because of the impossibly intricate details. Other dresses are double layered, with the outer layer a 3D print of transparent geometric shapes.

The clothes this season are fascinating thanks to their intricacy and the manner in which they swirl, dive and soar around the body. And van Herpen certainly raises questions about the nature of the human decision-making process. How much of it is based on considerations in the conscious mind and how much is determined by white noise in our head? That’s not just a question that might nag at a designer but one that haunts visual artists, custodians of the legal system, politicians, journalists and every player in the culture.

But mostly, these clothes are simply, undeniably fascinating. And as guests wandered through the darkened basement studio, a single question was on most everyone’s lips: How did she do that?


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