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How This Couture Dress Was Made Out Of Liquid Silicone

Sewing, cutting, draping, steaming — though you might not know how to do these things yourself, you’d recognise most of the processes of creating an article of clothing, from the basic at-home mend job to couture-level masterpieces executed by atelier premieres. It’s a process that’s largely remained the same since the beginning of our clothes-wearing history; we just have better tools for it all now. But among those still committed to the basics, there are a few designers integrating new-gen, high-tech techniques to create clothes you've only seen in your dreams.

No one is better at shaking up the system than visionary Iris van Herpen, whom we visited for this edition of our partnership with Visionaire. Van Herpen’s work utilises 3-D printing and materials manipulation to construct garments that feel as organic and natural as dew, bones, and lightning. Looks #1 and #11 in this collection are, respectively: a twisted minidress reminiscent of the ribs of a spiral ammonite fossil, and a long, heavy, silicone sheath embedded with Swarovski crystals that’s somehow as effervescent as a club soda.

For the first dress, she made the ribbing by laying out strips of iridescent, pearl-coated, laser-cut fabric and manipulating it — by pushing, pulling, and pinching it by hand — to create its waves and valleys. While its shell looks like something out of a sci-fi movie, it’s a by-the-seat-of-your-pants production method that’s much closer to "back then" than to the future.

Look #11 required a team of people to first identify the correct thickness of silicone, and its ratio to crystals. Too little silicone and the dress would tear; too much and it would appear like a sandwich board. Swarovski water-drop crystals were laid in a form and a clear, silicone liquid was poured over them like brownie batter, which was then placed in a vacuum machine to dry. Sampling and prototyping took over a month.

Watch the video above to see the intricate processes at work.