Johannes Vermeer Award for Iris van Herpen

The Dutch Culture Minister, Dr Jet Bussemaker, has selected fashion designer Iris van Herpen as the recipient of this year’s Johannes Vermeer Award, the Netherlands’ annual state prize for the arts. The jury, chaired by Els van der Plas, voted unanimously to nominate Van Herpen, citing her longstanding prominence in the world of international fashion. Van Herpen is receiving the award for her entire oeuvre. The award ceremony will take place in The Hague on 30 October 2017.

The jury praised Van Herpen for her pioneering and interdisciplinary designs, in which her exceptional talent and unbridled curiosity lead her to explore innovative digital technologies and traditional craftsmanship.

Born in 1984, Iris van Herpen studied fashion at ArtEZ Institute of the Arts in Arnhem, interning at Alexander McQueen in London and Claudy Jongstra in Amsterdam. She started her own label in 2007 from her Arnhem studio, developing a unique design ethos that she calls “New Couture”. 

Iris van Herpen/Philip Beesly, 2016

Futuristic and sculptural

Her work is both futuristic and sculptural and has featured in various exhibitions, for example at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York, and the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. Six of her dresses have been acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Luminaries such as Björk, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé and Tilda Swinton wear her designs.

Van Herpen’s couture arises at the interface of the arts, technology and fashion. She develops her collections in close collaboration with architectures, choreographs, musicians, photographers and filmmakers, but also with researchers at CERN in Lausanne and MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Iris van Herpen, spring/summer 2012

Challenging traditional fashion

Van Herpen’s multidisciplinary approach has expanded the boundaries of couture and, according to the jury, challenged the customary concept of fashion as, at most, an ‘applied art’. Van Herpen, however, sees its sculptural quality as one of the guiding principles of her collections, a quality that allows her to explore such concepts as wearability and trendiness. She also weaves multiple artistic disciplines into her work and uses innovative technologies not normally associated with fashion. Her approach has influenced other disciplines and artists and is driving a fundamental change in the way people think about fashion.

Van Herpen has received numerous awards since 2009, including the ANDAM Awards Grand Prix (2014), the Grand Prize of the European Commission – STARTS (2016) and the Grand Seigneur Award (2016). She was inducted into the prestigious La Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode in 2011 and became a member of the Society of Arts, part of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, in 2015.

State prize

The Johannes Vermeer Award is the Netherlands’ state prize for the arts. It consists of the sum of 100,000 euros, which the winner may use to fund a special project in his or her specific field. The Dutch government established the award in 2009, its aim being to honour and encourage exceptional artistic talent. The award is intended for artists working in the Netherlands and across all disciplines.

The jury for this year’s Johannes Vermeer Award consists of Els van der Plas (chairperson), Michel van der Aa (laureate in 2015), Ann Demeester, Jeroen Krabbé and Stephan Sanders. The Johannes Vermeer Award will be presented to Iris van Herpen in the Ridderzaal in The Hague on 30 October 2017.


Iris van Herpen fall/winter 2014