A month ago fashion designer Iris van Herpen was honored with the Witteveen+Bos "Art+Technology" Award, in the Dutch city of Deventer.
Set up in 2001 to mark the firm's 55th anniversary, the Witteveen+Bos "Art+Technology" Award is a celebration of creativity and goes to a visual artist whose work unites the disciplines of art and technology in an exceptional manner and for whom engineering is far more than a means to an end.
Van Herpen's combinations of futuristic shapes that at times seem to be inspired by organic elements, and her collaborations with architects, designers and scientists in pursuit of innovation, prompted the "Art+Technology" jury to award her the prize. This was the first time in its 15-year history that the "Art+Technology" Award was presented to an artist working in fashion.
Witteveen+Bos Managing Director Karin Sluis stated: "With this award, we want to emphasise the importance of creativity for innovation. The inspiring way in which Iris pursues innovation in fashion by developing new materials, applying a cross-over approach and engaging in multidisciplinary collaboration makes her the well-deserved fifteenth winner of the Art+Technology Award. She combines craftsmanship and technology in her creative process, constantly searching for their dialogue, making her work unique and pioneering. Her innovations make an important contribution to a more sustainable fashion industry. Iris's creations are wonderful works of art that are often displayed in museums after a spectacular fashion show."
Technological innovation plays indeed a key role in experimental couture and could help sorting out key global issues including sustainability, while offering designers the chance to create new materials.
The prize consisted in a cash sum, an exhibition in the Bergkerk Church in Deventer (on until today) and the publication of a new book.
Entitled "Metabolic" - a reference to the chemical transformations within cells and to the production of energy, which is the result of all processes in the body that cooperate in order to keep it going (energy is a theme that appears in many of Van Herpen's collections) - the exhibition featured eleven haute couture pieces, a few shoe designs and a video presentation showing Van Herpen's collections.
You weren't able to visit the event and see how Van Herpen's designs created great contrasts with the historic surroundings? Don't despair as you can still get the book featuring photographs by Morgan O'Donovan. The volume includes backstage photos that O'Donovan shot during the Iris Van Herpen shows in Paris, from 2011 till now.
The detailed images are very inspiring and offer a great insight into Van Herpen's work and designs: at times the pictures seem to portray strange coiling animals, at others bulbous structures that protrude from the body.
If in modernist architecture "form follows function", in Iris Van Herpen's case her technological forms and shapes have become the trademark of her fashion identity. The materials, shapes, and silhouettes portrayed by O'Donovan in detail are indeed unmistakeably Van Herpen's and show the essence of her work through intricately modern constructions.
In an official press release for the Witteveen+Bos Art+Technology Award, Iris van Herpen stated: "Morgan zooms in on the details, entering the material on what seems to be a microscopic level. His photos are so beautiful, it makes you feel like being able to actually touch the material."
From tomorrow the book is available via the Iris Van Herpen's website. This has been a lucky year for Van Herpen who also received in 2016 the Cultuurfonds Fashion Grant and the Eurpean Union's STARTS Prize.