Dutch fashion designer Iris Van Herpen has found inspiration in many esoteric things, down to the most basic building blocks of our molecular biology as a species. But few couture collections have been as outwardly striking as this season’s fungi-rooted frilly silhouettes, part of her Spring 2021 couture show. Or, I just haven’t seen fashion in a very long time.
Vogue reports the couturier pulled from the deepest darkest trenches of the ocean floor while constructing her Spring 2021 Couture show, with dresses and trains and capelets and shoulder ruffles made from fabric by Ocean Plastic, a company which “upcycles” marine waste like plastic bottles and other garbage. Herpen told Vogue: “Basically, there’s not a lot of reason not to use sustainable materials anymore, other than changing your mindset.”
The Dutch fashion freakazoid—which I say lovingly—was also touched by Entangled Life, a book by expert Martin Sheldrake on the global network of mushrooms and fungi that sustains all life on Earth. Touching, if a bit strange. In my brief research into his work, I found the below video, where he tends to, and then eats, the mushrooms that ate his book.
I hope he and Herpen have fucked at least once.
Back to the fashions: The connected nature of mushrooms stands in sharp contrast to our currently disconnected, or misconnected, current world. But while the origin story remains as ephemeral as ever, Herpen’s actual design-work is maybe the most consistent thing about modern Couture.
There are ruffles.
There are frills.
Intricate, fractalline bodices rendered like skeletons are ensconced by almost alien-like tendrils. Sheldrake’s influence is seen in their root-like structure, desperately reaching out for touch and connection to others and the earth.
This one is quite nice too.
Headpieces also remain a consistent throughput for Herpen, whose pioneering work into the ancient practice of putting things on heads is unparalleled. But paired with the branching fronds, placed so delicately on recycled ocean plastic bodices, the appearance takes on one of a truly alien nature. In myth, woodland creatures often draw inspiration from trees and flowers, like dryads and ents. Here, Herpen zooms right past convention, to a world where decaying mushrooms turn the waste of an extinct human species into creations past the scope of my physical comprehension.
If the time-traveling post-apocalyptic mushroom people that gifted Herpen these haunting portraits of the future of the human race are still kicking around out there, kidnap me too, please! I have a few dresses I’d like to borrow.