On Christmas Eve of 1968, Apollo 8 captured the iconic image now known as Earthrise, showing the earth in vivid blue set against the backdrop of the universe. How small this earth must had seemed, along with all the worldly concerns that astronauts Bill Anders, Frank Borman and Jim Lovell had briefly left behind. Some five decades on, world champion skydiver Domitille Kiger is falling at a speed of 300km per hour towards the same blue planet in a dramatic retelling of ‘Earthrise’ by Iris Van Herpen for her Haute Couture Autumn Winter 2021 – 2022 collection film.
The custom Haute Couture blue gown that Kiger wears is made from thousands of blue spheres, referencing our planet and demonstrating the immaculate art of construction that allows the gown to withstand extreme conditions. The spheres are hand-cut and gradient-dyed, made from Parley Ocean Plastic, sourced from upcycled marine debris.
Mirroring Van Herpen’s sartorial vernacular, her vision of oneness of the earth as a connected single organism, models are found inexplicably on precarious mountain sides, next to majestic glaciers, and seemingly floating in the sky. The gowns and Van Herpen’s signature forms and deceptively organic details (sometimes they resemble fish scales) blend seamlessly within the natural environment.
Related article: Haute Couture Fashion Week: Iris Van Herpen Fall 2020
As always, there are fascinating stories behind each piece and technique. The designs Van Herpen created in collaboration with artist Rogan Brown, whose work is inspired by scientific illustration, were made with layers and layers of intricately cut paper, either hand cut with a scalpel or laser-cut, some taking months to complete. The resulting weightless dresses could resemble organisms under a microscope or the human nervous system. The ‘masks’ designed in collaboration with artist James Merry, appear to be extensions of the models’ facial anatomy.
For Van Herpen, the witnessing of ‘Earthrise’ was a ‘pivotal moment’ in the evolution of the human species — for the first time, our anthropocentric perspective of the earth was thrown into question. Her collections often feel poised at the cusp of a paradigmatic shift. This season we are invited once again to play at the boundaries of what is conceptualised as Haute Couture.