Where cutting-edge design fuses heavenly bodies, celestial chimera, with the future of human evolution is where we find ‘Shift Souls,’ the captivating new spring Haute Couture collection from Dutch designer Iris van Herpen, recently unveiled at Palais des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
The ‘Shift Souls’ collection was inspired by early celestial cartography and its representations of mythological and astrological chimera. Of particular interest to van Herpen was the Harmonia Macrocosmica, a 17th century star atlas written by Dutch-German cartographer Andreas Cellarius and often described as the most beautiful celestial atlas ever published.
Van Herpen was also heavily inspired by present day technological advances and their impact on human evolution. “With the advances in DNA engineering and the first successful creations of human/animal hybrids called ‘Cybrids’, the mythological dreams of Humankind since the dawn of civilization are shifting to the canvas of science. While the scientific and ethical implications of ‘Cybrids’ are still unclear, this collection expresses the fact that this reality is upon us.”
‘Shift Souls’ was additionally inspired by the work of New York-based, aquatic expressionist artist Kim Keever. The former NASA engineer creates miniature topographies in a 200-gallon tank, which is then filled with water. Using colored lights and pigment dispersed into the water, Keever shoots dreamlike large-format photos. He has to work quickly because of the ephemeral atmospheres he creates, and it’s precisely the ephemerality and movement involved in his work that inspired van Herpen, who collaborated with Keever to create translucent layered cloud dresses of his signature work.
“For ‘Shift Souls’ I looked at the evolution of the human shape, its idealization through time and the hybridization of the female forms within mythology. Specially the imagination and the fluidity within identity change in Japanese mythology gave me the inspiration to explore the deeper meaning of identity and how immaterial and mutable it can become within the current coalescence of our digital bodies.”
The results of all this fascinating intermingled inspiration, along with 3D scanning and printing, laser cutting, complex dyeing, and heat bonding of myriad fabrics and structural materials: Voluminous spheroid dresses that look like dreamy symbiotes, “hybrid bird shapes in dimensional color gradations that hover in symbiosis with the body like mythological creatures,” dresses composed of wave formations with anamorphic faces wrapping around bodies like smoke, wearable nebulae and surreal spectral anatomies, “a dance of quivering echos that optically distort the body,” “vaporous colored clouds by Kim Keever that are printed on translucent organza, to be layered into nebulous multi-dimensional prints, whose unfinished contours blur the body.”
The only thing better than drinking in photos of these gorgeous gowns is actually watching Iris van Herpen’s creations in motion, celestial entities brought to earth, textile chimera and silken symbiotes brought to life by their models: