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How do magnets influence fashion?

How Dutch designer Jólan Van der Wiel learned to use magnetic forces to “grow” objects

How do magnets influence fashion?

Imagine a fashion show in which dresses seemingly grow onto the models. It might sound like a mad futuristic vision, but Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen imagined just this scenario when approached this year by Dutch industrial designer Jólan Van der Wiel to collaborate on a project.

Over the past two years, Van der Wiel has made a name for himself by harnessing magnetic forces to create a series of stools and candelabras. His innovative method makes use of a special mix of resin and iron filings that is put into a mould, and then pulled and stretched into shape using powerful magnets, resulting in a distinct spiky appearance.

“I wanted to manipulate invisible forces to create things that were not entirely my design,” says Van der Wiel. “I did a lot of research into different forces around us that we don’t see: G-forces, gravity, kinetic energy, magnetism.”

Following the success of his gravity stool, which was exhibited as part of the London Design Museum’s Designs of the Year 2013, Van der Wiel wanted to apply his method to a different discipline. “I thought of Iris immediately as she has a very experimental approach and dares to bring this kind of method to her work,” he says.

Van Herpen, known for elaborate 3D-printed constructions, was already working on Wilderness Embodied, a collection based around the forces of nature, when Van der Wiel approached her. His method fit into the existing story, and the two began the collaboration in earnest.

The idea of “growing” dresses on the models proved too dangerous to attempt, but the duo did manage to produce an experimental collection of dresses “grown” using magnetic forces. Each dress took four people four weeks to create, with the resin and iron-filing mixture applied to small sections of the fabric and then pulled into a spiked texture using magnets.

“For now,” says Van der Wiel, “the dresses are just for museums and catwalks. They show people what is possible.”

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