STYLE

Van Herpen, a newcomer to haute couture, shows clothes from darkly aquatic world

01/24/2012 10:10 EST | Updated 03/25/2012 05:12 EDT
PARIS - Iris Van Herpen's second haute couture show wrapped up a frenzied day of spring-summer collections with clothes that dipped into a darkly aquatic world, apparently inspired by "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."

"Normal rules don't apply" is one of the slogans of haute couture's new enfant terrible, a 27-year-old Dutch designer. Even the invitations she sent stick out from the rest: a transluscent square of plastic with a crustacean-inspired etching.

As two gothic doors opened to dramatic music, a pearl sheath dress emerged from the night at Monday's show and grew lightweight octopus-tenticles made of glass that enveloped its female host. As if this weren't enough, the model had to struggle against killer platforms — boney vertical daggers, instead of heels.

All the pieces were highly architectural, often with accentuated shoulders and hips in metallic shades of aubergine and grey, as well as pearl.

One piece, a cape-dress, looked like a brooding stingray carcass given life by an intricate weaving of shimmering silk and metal fibre. At this point the perhaps puzzled spectators were struck with awe.

Haute couture is often a spiky affair, but white Plexiglas fangs poking out of a cap-sleeved mini-dress saw this taken to the next level. The message was clear: you can look but don't touch.

The only downside was the slightly repetitive use of the sheath silhouette, only rarely punctuated by a longer number.

Despite her youth and newcomer status, Van Herpen has made a name for herself in Paris, with praises for her new direction.

"I just lead with intuition," the designer said backstage. "It's positive being new, as I can go wherever I want with total freedom."

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