Cincinnati art museum exhibit makes best-dressed list


Nadya Ellerhorst

A row of mannequins display dynamic dresses from Iris Van Herpen’s Crystallization collection at the Cincinnati Art Museum. Van Herpen combines everyday, unconventional materials and advanced technology to create innovative fashion pieces.

Nadya Ellerhorst, Fine Arts Section Editor

It is not everyday people see fashion pieces inspired by water, crows, industrial smoke, microorganisms, synesthesia, and mummification. But until Jan. 7, pieces like these are on display in the exhibit, Iris Van Herpen:Transforming Fashion, at the Cincinnati Art Museum.

Iris Van Herpen is a world-renowned haute couture fashion designer known for her artistic, experimental designs. Van Herpen was born in Denmark in 1984. After studying fashion at ArtEZ Institute of the Arts in the Netherlands, she created her first collection in 2007.

Van Herpen’s designs are remarkably intricate. She utilizes unconventional, diverse materials for her garments such as children’s umbrellas, stainless steel fabric, and 3D-printed materials. Visitors can explore two halls full of Van Herpen’s designs while learning about Van Herpen and her work.

Van Herpen was the first fashion designer to present a 3D-printed garment on the runway, for her Crystallization collection. This very garment, designed to appear like limestone when it hardens in water, is on display in the exhibit with some of Van Herpen’s other 3D-printed pieces.

Another notable piece is a garment designed to appear like a splash of water. Van Herpen individually constructed this piece by hand.

In order to better understand the texture and construction of Van Herpen’s remarkable materials, visitors may touch some of the materials in a special area in one of the exhibit halls. Guests can learn about the creation processes of the materials and watch a video in which Van Herpen demonstrates how she creates her trademark water-like pieces.

Visitors are not limited to only seeing clothing. Some of Van Herpen’s one-of-a-kind shoe designs are also on display, and even correspond with some pieces featured in the exhibit.

At the conclusion of the exhibit, guests can watch a video montage of some of Van Herpen’s runway shows. The video features some of the clothing found in the exhibit, giving viewers a better idea of how the garments are actually worn. It also provides insight as to other Van Herpen designs that are not included in the exhibit.

The fascinating exhibit is not just for fashion lovers. Anyone with interest in architecture, geometry, 3D-printing or an overall appreciation for art, can find the exhibit enjoyable.

The apparel on display in Iris Van Herpen: Transforming Fashion is not just clothing. Van Herpen did not design these garments to be mass-produced and sold worldwide. She found inspiration in the unexpected, and through hard work and devotion, she was able to express her ideas through stunning, ornate articles of clothing.

Van Herpen’s designs are exquisite artworks, not just meant to worn, but to be appreciated.


Iris Van Herpen: Transforming Fashion runs through January 7th, 2018, at the Cincinnati Art Museum. General admission to the museum is free, but tickets are required for the exhibition itself, and can be purchased online or at the museum. On Thursdays, from 5 to 8 p.m., access to this exhibition and other special exhibitions at the museum is free.