What does Iris van Herpen see when she closes her eyes and drifts off to sleep? Party dresses in alien shapes and textures, worn with leather sandals that appear to float several inches over their wooden soles.

 

People couldn’t stop photographing her arresting presentation in a darkened room, with models preening behind optical panels that duplicated and distorted them, making them appear even more otherworldly. It was a wry comment on our obsession with screens — and magnified van Herpen’s theme of “lucid dreaming,” as she explained that she drapes while in that state.

 

Draping is a relative term, for over plain, body-hugging sheaths in beige or black hovered all kinds of wonders: arrangements of snowflakelike beads in bubbling shapes; swooping panels of iridescent, striped tulle bringing to mind Santiago Calatrava buildings; or jutting pleats reminiscent of frilled-neck lizards — or carnivorous plants.

 

Van Herpen’s uncompromising designs often only flirt with wearability. You would need to be a scientist to understand the computer-assisted techniques required to realize these exoskeletons, among them 3-D printing and flexible thermoplastic polyurethane printing. Or you could just pull out your iPhone and try to capture their extraterrestrial beauty. See-now, dream-now.

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