Architectural Dressing

Iris Van Herpen Spring 2012 Couture referenced European Gothic Cathedrals

Fashion is architecture: it is a matter of proportions.” Coco Chanel

If architecture is the act of dressing spaces, and fashion is the act of dressing the body, then the act of the body moving through spaces is the primary meeting of the two. An ephemeral moment, where fashion invades architecture and architecture envelopes the body cocooning it. There are countless examples of fashion designers being inspired by architecture, and there are many celebrated fashion designers who first studied architecture, before focussing on fashion, than you may realise, including such luminaries as Pierre Balmain, Tom Ford, Gianni Versace, and Pierre Cardin.

Dior Haute Couture fall 2014 and Esterhazy Palace, Austria

It is, however, rare to find such a sensitive example of fashion meeting architecture as the recent collaboration between fashion designer Iris Van Herpen and Rotterdam’s Neutelings Riedijk Architects for the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, Netherlands. Neutelings Riedijk Architects won the open call in 2013 to renovate the original museum, including the development of a 400,000 square foot extension, and they immediately thought of collaborating with fashion designer Iris Van Herpen.

We wanted to evoke nature in all its elements — biodiversity, geology, tectonics — and not do so in a straightforward 19th-century manner. Hence, Iris. Michiel Riedijk, the project’s lead architect in The New York Times, October 2019

Iris Van Herpen’s panels photographed by Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times

The forms emulated undulating wave forms in pleated silk, or the water erosion that occurs over thousands of years, making the building look like it is in perpetual movement, whilst feeling both ancient and brand-new at the same time.

“The intention really was not to go away from my couture process too much, but instead to still it, and to disembody it” Iris Van Herpen, speaking to Dezeen in August 2019.

Iris Van Herpen’s panels at Naturalis, photographed for Dezeen