Parley For The Oceans x

Iris van Herpen Collaboration

By Tamara Kanuchova | April 18, 2021

Illustration: Iris van Herpen presents her new Spring-Summer 2021 collection. (Photo/Molly SJ Lowe)

The fashion industry is one of the many sectors that has suffered significantly due to the pandemic. As a result, many fashion brands have had to adapt to survive. This has allowed for some to emerge as the faces of innovation in fashion, such as the new Haute Couture Spring-Summer 2021 collection by Iris van Herpen. The famous Dutch designer is mainly known for her futuristic yet naturalistic designs which seem to come from a different world. Van Herpen has stated that her goal is to ensure her collections are solely made from recycled materials. There is a remarkable symbiosis in her work, between technology such as refined 3D printing techniques or laser-cutting, and detailed architectural designs. 

Van Herpen’s collection, Roots of Rebirth, was inspired by fungi. The collection refers to Merlin Sheldrake’s novel Entangled Life, where he elaborates on how “fungi is the ecological connective tissue”, and discusses the communication system that fungi create to send messages between plants. Through her designs, van Herpen emphasizes the hidden importance of fungi for our future. These organisms clean up the mess made by humans, as nature tends to. They can take care of nuclear and plastic waste, and are used for the development of new biodegradable spore fabrics. 

Moreover, this collection is even more special because it was designed in collaboration with the ecological organization Parley for the Oceans. The sixth look in the collection is not only beautifully crafted but is also an advocacy of sustainability. The material is made from waste found in the ocean and collected by Parley, addressing the issue of the millions of tons of plastic waste that ends up in the ocean every year. The fabric “OCEAN PLASTIC®” for the Holobiont dress was first printed and then laser-cut into small triangular pieces which, once connected, created a translucent surface on the model’s skin. 

OCEAN PLASTIC® is a fabric developed and patented by Parley. According to the organization, plastic is a design failure, and therefore the solution lies in redesigning the way we are (re)using this material. The vision behind this is to create a Material Revolution, in order to inspire people to change the way they think about materials that are not created to last forever, but take just as long to decompose.

Besides Iris van Herpen, Parley has collaborated with other fashion brands, namely Adidas and Stella McCartney. Couture, however, is something new for them. Is this the new face of fashion and luxury? Connecting knowledge and creativity together? With that said, designing dresses out of plastic straws to make a statement is no longer enough.  We need to permanently change the way we think so that sustainability is not something additional, but is rather embedded in our relationship with nature. Hopefully in the future, designers will be able to recognize and understand the relationship between science, art and nature on a deeper level. The seeds for such thought are being sown today by designers like Iris van Herpen and organizations like Parley for the Oceans.

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