Walk the Runway

Transforming Fashion Exhibit Debuts in Cincinnati

Iris van Herpen (b. 1984), Photo courtesy of Jean Baptiste Mondino and Iris van Herpen


Contemporary Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen has won international acclaim as one of the most visionary designers of the 21st century. Van Herpen takes fashion into the future. Credited with introducing 3-D printing to fashion, the designer seamlessly blends high-tech processes with traditional handwork, creating imaginative sculptural garments from materials as diverse as metal umbrella ribs, industrial yarns, woven metal, leather strips and transparent acrylic.

Her work has been worn by celebrities including Lady Gaga, Tilda Swinton, Beyoncé and Bjork and has graced the runways of Amsterdam, London and Paris. During a runway show in 2015, she used robots to print a dress over “Game of Thrones” actress Gwendoline Christie.

The Cincinnati Art Museum will showcase the artist’s avant-garde garments that combine art, engineering, architecture and science in Iris van Herpen: Transforming Fashion (October 13-January 7). The exhibition showcases 45 exquisite outfits from 15 collections and nine pairs of shoes. It includes examples of van Herpen’s innovative materials, with examples available for visitors to touch. Visitors will learn about her partnerships with architects, designers, scientists and 3-D printing companies. Videos featuring an interview with van Herpen and footage from her six most recent runway shows will be featured.

While studying at the prestigious ArtEZ Institute of Arts, Arnhem, van Herpen held internships with Alexander McQueen in London and Claudy Jongstra in Amsterdam. In 2011, at age 27, van Herpen became the youngest person to exhibit in the Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week, and in 2014 was awarded the highly prestigious ANDAM Award. Her designs are featured in the collections of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. Her unique aesthetic has been praised by Time, InStyle, Women’s Wear Daily and other publications.

Van Herpen’s 2006 graduation collection, Machine Jewelry, demonstrated her interest in the visualization of elusive concepts and intangible elements and her inventiveness in material use and treatment. A year after graduating, she began designing womenswear collections under her own name.

“For me, fashion is an expression of art that is very closely related to me and to my body. I see it as my expression of identity combined with desire, moods and cultural setting. Wearing clothing creates an exciting and imperative form of self-expression,” says van Herpen.

“For each collection, Iris has a vision of what she wants to create and then problem-solves to make it a reality,” says Cynthia Amnéus, the Art Museum’s curator of Fashion Arts and Textiles. “That is what artists do. They are not bound by the perceived limits of their materials. Iris has often accomplished this through her collaborations with engineers, architects and artists in other fields. It is inspiring to see this very 21st century intersection of art and innovative technology in her work.”

Iris van Herpen: Transforming Fashion is presented at the Cincinnati Art Museum by PNC. Generous support is provided by the Wohlgemuth Herschede Foundation. This exhibition will be on view in the Western & Southern Galleries. Organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, and Groninger Museum, The Netherlands. The exhibition was curated by Sarah Schleuning, High Museum of Art, and Mark Wilson and Sue Ann van der Zijpp, Groninger Museum. It debuted in 2015 at the High Museum of Art and was recently on view at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Art and the Dallas Museum of Art.

From October to March, visitors to the museum’s Rosenthal Education Center can learn about “Innovations in Art” through fun and educational activities that highlight artwork from the museum’s permanent collection and Transforming Fashion. Visitors can explore a 10-foot-tall interactive video projection, create a Victorian-era animation, try out a camera obscura, see 3-D printing in action and learn about how portable paint inspired an artistic movement.

Schleuning, the curator of Decorative Arts and Design at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art, will share insights and anecdotes about working with van Herpen on the exhibition on October 14 at 11 a.m. Learn more at cincinnatiartmuseum.org/transformingfashion. 


General admission to the Art Museum is free; special exhibition tickets required for admission to Iris van Herpen: Transforming Fashion


Free for members.

May be purchased at cincinnatiartmuseum.org or at the museum.


Visit cincinnatiartmuseum.org/transformingfashion.


Tuesday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Extended Thursday hours until 8 p.m.



The Cincinnati Art Museum is located at 953 Eden Park Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45202. For more information, call 513.721.2787 or visit cincinnatiartmuseum.org.