Fashion is often considered as a frivolous subject because it is usually analysed from the most superficial points of view. Yet there are things you can learn from it, at times even obscure concepts or the meanings of rarely used words. Iris van Herpen's Spring/Summer 2016 collection allows for example to grasp a geological, geometrical and architectural concept via its title - "Quaquaversal".
The term indicates something that is directed outwards in all directions from a common centre (think about a "quaquaversal dome structure"), and, developing from this concept, the collection was conceived as the result of a combination of nature and architecture.
The main starting point for the garment construction were the root bridges in India made with living trees twisted and manipulated into bridges.
"The beautiful potential of plants and other organisms to form living architecture inspired me to make a collection that is tangled like a maze around the body," Iris van Herpen stated in an official press release. "Inspiration came from the way plants and their roots grow, and how roots have been used to grow living bridges in the forests of India. This tradition of growing bridges inspired me to re-envision my process of making a garment."
Materials, especially light ones, were a key point in the collection and included fine organic lace from Calais, a nude and graphic maze-like lace and an iridescent silver lace, while embellishments featured Swarovski square gems and stones.
The designs - in a palette that included white, nude, grey, silver and black tones – were made using three main techniques, cutting, weaving and folding. In some pieces these techniques displayed links with architecture rather than with tailoring: for example, the three-dimensional slashes created via laser cutting called to mind the perforated and transformative architectures of the façades in Jean Nouvel's Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris.
Ethereal lace was instead combined with architectural elements, laser-cut lattice-like plastic geometric meshes that gave it more structure, while square crystals were employed to decorate transparent lace.
As the collection progressed, origami folds turned into expandable accordion and concertina motifs that looked wearable especially when it came to the futuristic laser-cut silvery gowns worthy of a superheroine.
All the looks were matched with "Airborne" footwear created in collaboration with Finsk and characterised by an ultra-thin platform creating an illusion of the wearer being suspended above ground.
Another aspect of the collection was the concept of growth that replaced the traditional process of making clothes.
The act of growing a garment as if it were a living architecture (a root bridge...) was at the centre of the presentation: Gwendoline Christie, star of the fantasy-drama television series Game of Thrones, laid motionless on a round platform as if sleeping or caught in an intense dream, wearing a circular dress which was being woven upon her. The live process blended different techniques - laser cutting, hand-weaving and 3-D printing into one dress, that spread from the centre and was therefore "quaquaversal" in its geometries.
Three "beings" - consider them trees, robotic arms or abstract creatures - moved over the sleeping figure, their geological mineral landscape magnetically grown by the artist Jólan van der Wiel, weaving the dress in real time.
At Hussein Chalayan's S/S 16 show we saw the possibility of destroying one thing to allow a new one to be created; in this case, the concept of growth prevailed, even though it wasn't possible to see the dress changing immediately.
The term "quaquaversal" comes from the Latin expression "quaqua-versus", indicating, as stated above, a movement in all directions. So far, van Herpen has proved fashion can have a quaquaversal movement and progress in various directions with the help of professional figures from other fields such as architecture, art and science. Now she just needs to improve her silhouettes and introduce new ones, combining her experimental materials and techniques with innovative tailoring. For the time being, though, Christie may have just found the wardrobe for the red carpet of the latest films she has starred in, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 and Star Wars: Episode VII.
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