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Iris van Herpen joined forces with French artist, Julie Gautier for her Spring/Summer 2023 couture collection in a spectacular underwater display commemorating the resilience of Iranian women.

The four-minute film, Carte Blanche, sees models submerged in the deepest manmade pool in Europe wearing van Herpen's unmistakable structural yet free-flowing garments. The result is an ethereal experience that quite literally brings the designer's creations to life while at the same time constructing an empowering narrative and social commentary.

Gautier and van Herpen's usage of water as a medium for this collection wasn't without purpose. The underwater setting stripped models of their voices, commenting on the societal oppression faced by women. The powerful ending of the film sees the surface finally being broken, symbolizing a uniquely feminine display of strength and determination.

The collection featured a moody color palette of primarily deep purples and blues, with one red garment standing out in particular. This piece perfectly highlights van Herpen's expertise in corsetry, and its delicate cutouts created a gill-like effect underwater. Not only is this look the epitome of technical prowess at the couture level, it embodied the message of Carte Blanche.

Source: My Face Hunter

Van Herpen said in an interview with Paper Magazine that the core themes of the film center around freedom and feminine empowerment, a story that would have been lost had the collection been presented on a traditional runway. The storyline presented with just one look utilizes color theory to convey the themes van Herpen sought to express.

Red is an emotionally charged color, symbolizing action, power, and danger. The journey of this piece faces the danger of the deep water before breaking the surface at the end. Culminating in a chilling and voiceless underwater scream that captured a feeling that too many women understand: tireless efforts to be heard falling on deaf ears.

The scream perfectly captures the reality that Iranian women are currently facing as protests continue. Their voices are being heard around the world, and yet their humanity cannot be recognized by the government that oppresses them. Freedom is what they scream for, and much like the scream in Carte Blanche, it isn't heard.

Although the rest of the collection still holds these themes, Van Herpen presented a chilling storyline with one red look that all-too-perfectly captures the feminine battle against our oppressors.

Source: My Face Hunter

Every aspect of this collection exudes femininity. Created with recycled polyester and organic silk, female strength isn't just conveyed in the film, but also in the ability of the models to showcase van Herpen's work in a nontraditional environment. Her usage of lightweight materials certainly made the garments easier to navigate in the water, but conveying their beauty is an act of strength in itself.

Historically, women's clothing has been inconvenient at best and impractical at worst. Women are societally expected to perform femininity in a way that appeals to the gaze of men. The Dutch designer completely subverts that notion. The models appear to move effortlessly and freely, as if the gowns they wear are extensions of themselves rather than cumbersome couture pieces. Through fashion and performance art, van Herpen has liberated feminine beauty from the eyes of men.

Source: Iris van Herpen

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