Iris Van Herpen in Poznan

This might sound truly surreal, but yes, an exhibition dedicated to Iris Van Herpen‘s sci-fi creations has opened in my hometown, Poznań. “Alchemic Couture” is on show until the end of January in Stary Browar’s Art Station Gallery and presents some of the most striking designs coming straight from Van Herpen’s studio in Amsterdam. This exhibition shows how Iris van Herpen perceives haute couture as a transformative language, an interdisciplinary entity that emerges from the space in which innovation and craftsmanship interlace. The Iris van Herpen maison was founded in 2007 and showcases its collections bi-annually at Paris Haute Couture Week as a member of the Fédération de la Haute Couture. The brand stands for slow fashion with a multi-disciplinary approach towards collaborations with artists, architects and scientists. Each collection is a quest to venture beyond today’s definition of a garment, exploring new forms of femininity for a more meaningful, diverse and conscious fashion for the future. Organic, innovative femininity is expressed through state-of-the-art couture that embraces individuality powerfully and fearlessly. Van Herpen’s work is deeply rooted within nature – water, air and earth are elements that leave traces in the sensorial garments. The infinite properties alluding to movement such as the unbound forces and fluidity behind water or its crystalline formations are facets that flow into the designs. Through biomimicry, the maison visualises and materialises the invisible forces that shape our world, perpetuating a deep sense of organic presence. Captivated by architecture and how we embody space and inhabit sculpture, Van Herpen recognises both fashion and architecture as expressions of self, culture and community that link to the times and fabric of society. Changes of perception provoked through dichotomies between the hard and soft, structure and movement encompass the poetics of the brand’s craft. Transcending boundaries within the industry by liberating our sense of limitations, the maison is known for binding emerging technologies like elaborate 3-D printing or laser-cutting with delicate handwork such as embroidering or draping, creating a hybrid of haute couture. ‘Craftolution’, coined as the evolution of craftsmanship and the embracement of change form the core of the brand’s identity, fusing layered lightness, three-dimensionality, and undulating volume into ethereal creations. Summing up, seeing those works IRL is a mind-blowing experience.

Photos by Edward Kanarecki.

Jeanne in Shanghai. Lanvin SS21

Is Lanvin‘s choice of showing it’s spring-summer 2021 collection in Shanghai a surprise? Not really. It’s financially and commercially a wise thing to do. Lanvin is owned by Fosun International, the Chinese conglomerate with such eclectic subsidiaries as the Wolverhampton Wanderers and Cirque du Soleil. Also, as far as fashion is concerned, there’s beautiful irony to the fact that China was the first country to return to a sense of normalcy after the coronavirus outbreak. Pre-pandemic, China was the new shopping center of the world. Post-pandemic, staging your fashion show there is pretty much a win-win scenario. “We can do a proper event there with hundreds of people,” Bruno Sialelli, Lanvin’s creative director, said during a preview in Paris, two weeks before he shipped his pre-styled Lanvin show to Shanghai and live-streamed it from the historic Yu Garden. “And to be very pragmatic, this is the market that is going to drive growth in luxury in general. It’s good for us to federate our community there.” What about the collection? The designer seems to be leaving behind his Loewe style and induldges in Jeanne Lanvin’s rich, Art Deco heritage. The opening looks were sublime: from those golden trinkets to the reimagined Jean Dunand motifs that graced garments and accessories, and the Armand-Albert Rateau pieces and Georges Lepape illustrations that inspired them. The show started with Sialelli’s interpretations of Lanvin’s robe de style, the dainty drop-waist silhouette she loosely revived from the 19th century. The first – black with a crystal bow across the hip – was virtually a replica of its 1920s embodiment. Somehow, it looks relevant in 2020. “Lanvin was at its strongest in between the World Wars. It became a huge company with hundreds of employees, ateliers, cosmetics, and everything. It’s interesting to observe the pendants between the 1920s and the 2020s,” Sialelli reflected. “Art Deco’s three words were order, geometry, and color. I think it expresses something that’s interesting to re-contextualize today.” Discussing his silhouettes, he mentioned “a certain rigidity,” explaining, “from the beginning, I’ve thought about characters like Maggie Cheung or Anna May Wong, who have this put-together attitude; very neat. I want to translate that character.” The collection has its ups and downs (the daywear felt whatever…), but finally, the new Lanvin takes shape.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.