This month’s Third Thursday was a celebration of Iris van Herpen’s extraordinary, otherworldly fashion designs. Known for her sculptural, futuristic pieces and frequent use of unconventional materials, Van Herpen is a Dutch designer who has dressed the likes of Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, and Björk. She interned with Alexander McQueen before starting her own label in 2007, and this exhibit at the Carnegie Museum of Art is part of her first ever North American tour. Her exhibit features 15 of her fashion lines, with pieces that range from textured and rigid to ephemeral and delicate. Her pieces strike a chord that rings both modern and ornate; she pushes the envelope to the point where her designs seem almost from an alternate universe.
The event also focused on Van Herpen’s use of unconventional materials and invited attendees to create their own fashion experiments. Van Herpen herself has used materials ranging from lace and traditional fabrics to 3D printed forms and the repurposed spokes of children’s umbrellas. No longer confined by just fabric for material, her designs are dynamic and creatively sourced. Her unique approach to her materials often applies new technologies to the creative process of fashion design, and, at other times, provides a subtle commentary on reuse and sustainability.
Attendees were given the opportunity to apply these concepts of unconventional materials and sustainability to their own accessories. Pittsburgh’s Center for Creative Reuse provided a wide variety of materials — fabric samples, plastic tubing, jewelry findings, feathers, metal caps — and standard crafting materials for a DIY accessory-making session for Third Thursday attendees. By giving people the resources to design their own accessories, Creative Reuse and Third Thursday put the power of self-expression through fashion directly in the hands of the wearer. Not only is the practice of creative reuse sustainable and environmentally friendly, it provides unique materials for arts, crafts, and in the context of fashion, ownership of one’s outward appearance.
In addition to a runway and “white carpet” photo station, Third Thursday featured DJs from Hot Mass in the echoing Sculpture Hall. In all their eclectic fashions, attendees danced and celebrated their personal definitions of fashion and self-representation. Attendees were encouraged to wear their most “fashion-forward ensemble,” and this challenge was met in very diverse and personal ways. From semi-casual attire to gothic gowns, formal wear to the avant garde, Third Thursday patrons represented themselves through their own interest — and background-informed aesthetics.
Complementing the event’s focus on sustainability and unconventional resources, the event also featured the makeup brand Winky Lux. A lip bar allowed patrons to swatch lip glosses, lip sticks, and eyeshadows. In the name of innovative fashion and self-representation, the inclusion of this lip bar — which included Winky Lux’s “flower balms,” lip sticks with real flowers inside that change color in response to the wearer’s pH levels — exposed attendees to unusual and custom makeup.
February’s Third Thursday was rich with self-representation and appreciation for personal definitions of beauty. Iris van Herpen: Transforming Fashion will be showing through May 1st in the Heinz Galleries on the second floor of the Carnegie Museum of Art. Guided exhibit tours are available every Friday and Sunday at 12:30 p.m., and every Thursday at 6:30 p.m.