Design Engineering
Showcase 2020

Iris van Herpen

Alisa Lomax
Prof. Peter Childs
2D & 3D Graphic Design Intern
Industrial Manufacturing

What is fashion-technology? With this question in mind and a desire to gain insight into the world of high fashion, my placement took place at Iris van Herpen's atelier. The Dutch designer's work is known for its avant-garde approach in fusing technology and traditional haute couture. The atelier reflected this through the mix of draping, laser-cutting, sewing and adobe file work towards output that varied from rapid iteration of designs for next season to carefully crafted custom orders. Overall, I had a formative experience in fashion which revealed the dynamics and values within the industry.

 — Iris van Herpen

Demonstration of Design Engineering Thinking and Skills

The work place at IvH was ideal for a design engineer in the sense that it mimicked the Design Engineering dynamic, we came from diverse backgrounds of fashion, product design, engineering and technical medicine. The group was also highly international, at any lunchtime we would have conversations happening in German, Spanish, English and Dutch. The role of a design engineer in such a workplace is to be able to adapt to different ways of thinking and communicating ideas. What was unique to the IvH environment was the fusion of a chaotic fashion approach to design with the meticulous and zero error thinking of tech. Being able to adapt to these styles of working at different parts of the design process was a challenge. In terms of my practical contributions as a design engineer my core skills of design research, basic mathematic and engineering knowledge and hands on skills of soldering and prototyping were of use for my work on the finale dress. I was able to propose a number of engineering solutions to the desired outcome as well as produce technical drawings which were sent to the MIT Self-Assembly Lab to develop a dress concept. Overall, the ability to bridge technology and fashion in thought and work output was a skill unique to a design engineer.

Role and Contributions

My role as a 2D and 3D graphic design intern meant that the majority of my work was based on Adobe Illustrator. Essentially, I was creating designs based off of the head of the atelier's inspiration which would then be laser-cut and made into garments. My contribution was towards the creation of next season's collection. The graphic design team worked alongside the atelier team who would construct the samples or garments that we produced the files for. Occasionally work would change hands across the teams, this meant that we were all well versed in the entire process of how an IvH dress is digitally designed, iterated and constructed. Aside from this main body of work I was instructed to carry out design research for next season's finale dress, this led to SMA prototyping. My placement ended before the finale dress was concluded so my input was mostly exploratory. As a fashion intern you execute the tasks you are given to the highest finish in the shortest possible time. Most of our work wasn't sustained projects and so the opportunity to be involved in the finale dress was very lucky.


Fashion is wild, people work long hours and for minimal pay all in the pursuit of beauty. This placement gave me the insight I sought and has now presented a myriad of reflective questions. Is it ethical to create objects of desire which are kept out of reach for most of the population? Could there be another fashion business model that isn't based on selling 'pieces of a dream' (diffusion lines, perfumes etc)? Is fashion all facade? Food for thought.


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