Is a warning from Iris Van Herpen telling us about a dystopian technocratic future to come?
By Chere Di Boscio
Haute couture is perhaps the best expression of slow fashion, and for this FW Couture Week 2018-19 season, Iris van Herpen put the emphasis on ‘slow’. Her focus was on what she called “slowing down the movement of a fabric,” and to illustrate the concept even further, her runway featured an installation called In 20 Steps by artists Studio Drift, where articulated glass tubes suspended from the ceiling very slowly simulated the movement of wings in flight.
Van Herpen’s beautiful collection evoked high-tech birds of paradise, mysterious insect shapes, and outer-worldly flora. Marvellous meshes of membrane and fantastical feathers climaxed with a stunning insect-queen outfit that provoked gasps of delight from the Parisian audience.
Unlike most designers, she presented only a few looks on the catwalk – 17 in total – perhaps emphasising her commitment to slow fashion as art. As always, she stressed the influence of biology, physics, and science on her designs, and her latest collection showcased the many techniques she has previously developed, including zero-waste 3D printing.
Whilst we normally adore van Herpen’s stress on the biological and botanical, her show’s title, Syntopia, indicated a concept that’s substantially more disturbing; as she refers to the word: “biology merging with technology.”
For some, this may be a good thing. And certainly there are benefits – the blind can see and the deaf can hear thanks to technological advances in biological medicine, for example.
But for us, this represents a dystopian future whereby humankind loses touch with Gaia and instead moves more into the realm of cold, unfeeling technology. With the advent of smart grids, cryptocurrencies, microchipping, virtual reality and increasing addiction of young people to the internet and avatar ‘realities’, the threat of widespread, global authoritarian control and disconnecting ourselves to that which makes us truly human is ever-growing. It is something we here at Eluxe feel passionate about rejecting, and we hope van Herpen does, too.
Perhaps this collection is a fashionable warning from Iris Van Herpen. As wonderful as it is, could also be seen as a warning of a very ugly future, where people are controlled by technology, and the power of nature is reduced to nothing but an attractive – but ultimately empty – simulation of God’s own creation.
Perhaps fashion is telling us: it’s time to wake up! We should be listening.