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Iris van Herpen: '3D printing is the future of fashion'

Iris van Herpen: '3D printing is the future of fashion'

Iris van Herpen sees 3D printing technology as the future of the fashion industry.

Van Herpen started her label in 2007 after graduating from Arnhem's ArtEZ Institute of the Arts in 2006 and stints working for Alexander McQueen in London and artist Claudy Jongstra in Amsterdam.

The Dutch designer, who is known for her sculptural and futuristic style, is a leading exponent of how technology can be used in the fashion industry and is fascinated by the endless design potential of 3D printing.

While she first started using 3D printed dresses in 2009, van Herpen says the technology wasn't very flexible at that stage, so she had to be inventive in how she incorporated it into her collections.

"I remember the first piece I printed took seven days, 24 hours a day, to print. If you count that in hours, it’s massive, but it doesn’t take that long anymore. It’s pretty fast," she told

Because the process is much quicker and more durable now, van Herpen thinks the technology has the potential to radically change the way garments are made as well as making them more sustainable. But even with such a focus on technology, the 31-year-old feels the basis of her work is craftsmanship.

"You have traditional houses that focus on craftsmanship, and then you have people who are into technology, but I don’t really see that they have to be apart. I see them as equal, and I actually think that they can complement each other," she explained. "Sometimes a texture that I’ve been developing on a 3D printer can be an inspiration for a handwork technique, and sometimes it’s the other way around."

Van Herpen will be showing several pieces at the Costume Institute's spring 2016 exhibition, Manus x Machina, which opens on 5 May (16) in New York. The event explores how fashion designers are reconciling the handmade and the machine-made in the creation of haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear.

"It’s again that notion of fashion and art. Some people see my work as art and others see just the beauty of a dress. I want to keep it that open. I’m just not very branded in that sense!" she smiled.

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