Iris van Herpen

From ocean and cosmos to fashion

This extraordinary exhibition – called sculpting the senses – at Musée des Arts Décoratifs, in Paris, is more than just fashion. This Dutch haute couture designer mixes her works with contemporary art, videos, and sculptures. Walking into this mystical world, the visitor is accompanied by Salvador Breed’s electronic sounds.

Iris van Herpen’s interest in classical dance is apparent in the movement of her clothes, as is her interest for all living creatures, especially those in the ocean – corals, fishes, and crabs – as well as for the cosmos and its vastness. The scenographer has truly followed her ideas in a magical way. Diving into her world, was like viewing a science fiction movie in 3 D.

This retrospective of around one hundred pieces of haute couture, is divided into different themes: from the microscopic to the macroscopic. Water is but one of these. Its metamorphous from liquid to solid is craftily exemplified using different techniques, and shown in the form of crystals, blown glass, plexiglass, and laser- artworks. From under the ocean’s surface, the visitor is flung to its bottom via creations inspired by planktons, strange fishes and even skeletons! Macramé works are mixed with intricate Japanese paper works, origami. Feathers, scissored, transparent, plissé, airy… these clothes seemed, although amazing to look at, impossible to wear. That was until I discovered photographs of famous people, such as Madonna, Beyoncé, Natalie Portman, and Cate Blanchett, among others, beautifully dressed in them.

The upper floor of this ancient museum shows Iris van Herpen’s way of working in her atelier, using different materials to produce her outfits, along with a video. Otherwise, it is mostly consecrated to her devotion to the cosmos. The exhibition is so overwhelming that it requires several hours to see in order to take in everything, from the art works to the fashion designs. It’s like walking in a fantasy world, Alice in Wonderland, although she’s inspired by our wonderous planet and the creations that inhabit it. It leads to reflection about the importance of caring for our precious earth.

Iris van Herpen isn’t only an haute couture designer with an incredible imagination, she’s also eco-friendly with an interest in nudging us to take better care of the eco-system. It’s also a dip into a future with new techniques and materials that can be used to make fashion in a new and more sustainable way. Anyone interested in haute couture, contemporary art, dance, modern techniques, nature’s wonders, and cosmos mysteries, should hurry up to come to Paris to see this fabulous exhibition!

Anne Edelstam, Paris.   

Iris van Herpen

Sculpting the scenses

Musée des Arts Décoratifs (MAD)


29 November 2023 – 28 April 2024

Four Swedish women landscape artists displayed in Stockholm’s Royal Park

Anna Boberg Lofoten

Prince Eugene (1865 – 1947)was an artist and an art-collector. At his death, he bequeathed his beautiful palace, collection, gallery, gardens, and atelier to the Swedish state. Waldemarsudde is situated in the Royal Park, overlooking the huge lake, Mälaren. Regularly, a new exhibition is shown there.

During this spring/summer season 2023, it’s the turn of four, too long forgotten women artists, namely: Ester Almqvist, Anna Boberg, Ellen Trotzig and Charlotte Wahlström to be shown. The exhibition concentrates on the period from 1890 to 1920. Swedish landscape painting was at its peak during that time. These artists became famous both nationally and internationally but, have sadly since been overlooked. Interesting brush strokes, choice of motives and influences from artists such as Gauguin, van Gogh and Matisse are noticeable in their works.     

Northern Lights Anna Boberg

I was immediately drawn to Anna Boberg’s (1864 – 1934) painting from Lofoten, in Northern Norway. The place is grandiose, wild and far away from civilization. She paints the snowy mountains in intriguing colors that go from violet, to green and pink. I’m wondering if it’s the works of art themselves or her adventurous life that attracts me the most. I guess a bit of both. Her painting “Northern lights”, in the symbolists’ spirit, made her famous even in the chic Parisian salons. Some of her works have a transcendental touch to them.

Charlotte Wahlström Haystacks

Charlotte Wahlström (1849 – 1924) painted in a poetic style, with lush landscapes, blooming fruit trees and drifting clouds over soft hills – not unlike an English countryside. There isn’t a person in sight in her dreamlike settings. The works are the mark of her sensitive and romantic personality. However, she’s also known for her descriptions of Stockholm night skies. Charlotte was one of the most appreciated landscape’s painters of her time. She’s finally been reinstated among the grandest! 

Ellen Trotzig the Rainbow

Ester Almqvist’s (1869 – 1934) art focuses on everyday life. She paints with short brush strokes, side by side, much in the style of Van Gogh. She’s not interested in being realistic but preferred the post-impressionist way. From rather dark and subtle colors, she developed her pallet to include clear yellow, red, and blue tones. During her trips to Italy and France, she started to paint workers lives. She went from being a landscape painter to describing laborers, whether out in the fields, picking potatoes, or working in cities.

Ester Almqvist Fields and Forests

She’s contrasting with Ellen Trotzig (1878 – 1959) who was an introvert and a mystic. Even her paintings of individuals are full of symbols – more like in a saga than in real life. Her paintings of skies with dark clouds lurking, with a few piercing sunrays, painted with diagonal, long strokes, allure to a godly presence.

If in Stockholm, don’t miss this wonderful palace with its gorgeous flower ornaments, nice lunch restaurant, gardens, and exhibition hall all at once! You’ll discover another world, hidden in the middle of town.    

Anne Edelstam, Stockholm

Kvinnliga Pionjärer, Visionära Landskap/

Women pioneers, visionary landscapes

Ester Almqvist, Anna Boberg, Ellen Trotzig, Charlotte Wahlström

Prins Eugene, Waldemarsudde

4 March – 20 August 2023

La Galerie Dior


The House of Dreams

Christian Dior’s haute couture doesn’t need an introduction. He’s been famous for his fashion designs for decades. Tourists and Parisians alike marvel at his magnificent shop, in one of Paris poshest streets, 30 avenue Montaigne. 

But who was this man? And where did he learn his skills? That, and much more, you’ll learn going to this newly opened museum around the corner from the Christian Dior shop, at 11 rue François 1er.

The first encounter in this enchanting place, with its fabulous scenography, are the walls surrounding the staircase, filled with miniature dresses and accessories. They’re displayed according to colour: an eye-teaser.  

Christian Dior’s favourite colours – a soft pink combined with a gravel grey – were a reminder of his childhood home, in Normandy, frequently used in his couture. Roses were also dear memories from that place, which held a special place in the designer’s heart.

However, this self-taught man, didn’t start his career in the fashion industry but, in art. Dior opened an art gallery to exhibit his new friends, such as Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau and Max Jacob. Expressionist films, surrealists, and dance troops, like the Swedish Ballet, inspired Dior during the Happy 1920s. To make ends meet, he also worked as a fashion illustrator. Some of those sketches are exposed in the museum.

It wasn’t until the end of WWII, in 1946, that Christian Dior, together with the industrialist, Marcel Boussac, opened the couture house, in 30 avenue Montaigne, with three ateliers and a staff of 85 people.

After having shown the first spring collection, in 1947, the editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar said: “My dear Christian, your dresses have such a new look!”

Some of these are shown in the museum’s first room. Soon after, he launched his first perfume, Miss Dior. The success was immediate! Dior therefore decided to open another shop in New York City, in 1948, on Fifth Avenue. Perfumes, as well as an exclusive ready-to-wear collection, and accessories, were created on the premises.     

Dior’s different parfum bottles, with their sophisticated packages, are elegantly exposed, along with dresses, handbags, and other accessories.

No wonder that this utterly creative man got the French Legion of Honor for his contribution to the textile industry and the fashion craftsmanship! A woman, sitting embroidering with gold threads in the museum, explains her intricate work for curious visitors. Christian Dior’s desk is displayed, as well as a couple of ateliers.

The newly appointed Minister of Culture, Rima Abdul Malak, is promoting handicrafts schools all over France. It’s of utter importance that these skills are handed down to the next generation for the preservation of France’s savoir-faire. Haute couture being one of its international known marks.

After having opened a shop in Latin America, having written a few books, held several fashion shows, launched the Dior lipsticks, he suddenly died of a heart attack, only 52 years old, in 1957.

However, his legacy lived on and continues to thrive. A few of Dior’s successors’ items are displayed in the Museum. Before going down to the exclusive café, the visitors can enjoy several designers: from Yves St Laurent (Dior’s immediate successor) to John Galliano and finally Maria Grazia Chiuri, who is also the museum’s curator.

Don’t miss this fashion museum, dedicated to Parisian Haute Couture and its history, with a scenography narrative to be envied by any saga writer! I’m sure Christian Dior himself would have said that: “this is a dream come true.”

Anne Edelstam, Paris

La Galerie Dior

11, rue François 1er

Paris 8ème

Fashion design from Afghanistan

Silk and calligraphy

This remote country has so much more to offer than what we see on the news. Thanks to the Musée Guimet in Paris, we discover its diverse and interesting past: from Paganism, Zoroastrianism, to Buddhism, eventually also mixed with a dash of Hinduism and finally, adopting Islam as its major religion.

French and Afghan archeologists have been working hand in hand, excavating, and restoring ancient monuments and objects. They are displayed in several rooms in the basement of this great museum. The exhibition relays the history of this mountainous country, from its early days until today. Photographs and objects by the hundreds are on display, showing the vast panorama of an ever-evolving culture. Afghanistan constitutes an agglomeration of tribes, each one having their specific traditions and past histories.

Going from archeology to fashion may seem like a large step. However, on the upper floor, Zarif design shows but a different side of this creative and gifted people. Zarif is a Persian word meaning “delicate or fine” but it can also be extended to mean a person with a subtle and ethical mind.

Men’s cloth used also for women

 Sur le Fil exhibits colorful caftans and jackets, embroidered in the fashion of the most intricate Arabic calligraphy, flowers or simpler, but just as elegant, motives. To write on textiles is an ancient tradition in the region. The famous poet and artist, Rumi, was born in Afghanistan in the 13th century. Poems were already then found interwoven in carpets and textiles, so Zarif Design is merely picking up on an ancient tradition and modernizing it.

After years of war and invasions, the 2001 Western intervention brought back some of the Afghan exiles, among whom, Zolaykha Sherzad. She started a local project in Kabul, having a specific vision in mind. Through her company, she works with Afghan women and men. The seamstresses and embroiders work alongside each other in the Zarif workshop. The railings are full of jackets and coats for men and women: from the most intricate and delicately embroidered silk coats to simpler jackets.

Long caftan

 Zolaykha has integrated the chapman – men’s coat – with, among others, its typical green and purple stripes. President Hamid Karzai used to wear one on public occasions. Zarif design has reinvented this garment to include it in the women’s wardrobe, shortening it, taking it in at the waist and adding embroidery as well.  

Some of the most stunning examples of her design are exhibited at Musée Guimet. Photographs from the workshops are displayed and Zolaykha herself explained how this all came to be. It’s like a fairy tale come true. Until this day, her company still exists, although it’s getting difficult to export the products to the West due to all the restrictions.

Embroidered by locals in Kabul

Zarif design is a fabulous example of how to help women become more independent in an otherwise very patriarchal society. It’s also a great discovery of the beautiful fabrics and skills of this proud people. Fashion for a Western public using ethnic textiles and embroideries is very actual. I therefore encourage anyone interested in fashion and in helping those women, to have a look – and why not to order – something from

Anne Edelstam, Paris

Musée Guimet, Paris

Sur le Fil

26 October 2022 – 06 February 2023    

Pablo Reinoso at Chambord

Chambord viewed through one of Pablo’s sculptures

This spring and throughout the summer, the castle is opened for visitors to come and enjoy its premises with a touch of grace: that of the French/Argentinian artist, Pablo Reinoso, with his exhibition ’Overflow’. 

The cultural life has suffered during these years of pandemic. However, it has also permitted artists to work on projects without outer disturbances. The Loire Valley is one of the most frequented tourist attractions in France, thanks to the several well preserved castles and its closeness to the capital.  Most castles were emptied of their furniture and artworks during the French Revolution. Maybe that’s why they’re well suited for contemporary exhibitions as this one?

Pablo Reinoso has been keen on using the existing structures and rooms. He’s an ecologically concerned artist who works with woods – recuperated or available in abundance – and steal. For the over fifty pieces shown at Chambord, he’s used chestnut trees that grow in the vicinity and fallen mulberry branches. There are also huge charcoal paintings that ornate some of the castle’s walls and even parts of its façade where repairs are being conducted, using scaffolding.

The castle’s masterpiece is an inner circular, intricate, double staircase, inspired by Leonard da Vinci. Pablo invested it without obscuring its beauty, by hanging inside it, black canvas ’breathing’ cushions. Ventilating devices placed in the cushions, make them move up and down. Similar cushions have been used in some of the castle’s smaller side rooms. The artists told us to enter the space in silence and to ’listen to the breathing’. This black cushion sculpture had something spooky over it though. His coal installation inside this dark room didn’t lift the mood either. It suggested the end of an area and the manner in which we have polluted the environment.

Pablo’s installation inside the staircase

In this seemingly hopelessness, there was light in the tunnel with his humorous wood benches that stretched out like spaghetti and his likewise perched chairs. Pablo has invested what he could in this otherwise barren castle: on the walls, the floors and in the large fireplaces, in which he had placed wooden sculptures, resembling flames.

’Articulations’ – sculptures made as bodily articulations and hung up or placed on the floor – made me think of Leonardo da Vinci’s fascination for the human body. They might have different meanings: such as the ingenuity of our own bodies, with all its intricate functions, that we don’t even pay attention to unless of course something gets broken; as well as our fragility. Pablo’s works reflect the human senses: be it breathing, hearing, touching, seeing (in the dark room), moving… It may also be a reminder of our eventual decaying. ’We come from dust and to dust we shall return’.

It was nice to step out of the chilly castle and into the warm spring day in the park. Pablo’s idea seems to be that his outdoor sculptures may also be useful. Children were climbing in them and two of them are like enormous rocking chairs, quite comfortable at that. However, the one I preferred was a monumental tree in steal. Peaking inside it, I discovered a perfectly adjusted spiral, apparently also inspired by Leonardo da Vinci.

The park is lovely to stroll around in. There’s a restaurant in the vicinity and a shop selling the castle’s own wine among others. Not far away is another castle, Cheverny, with the Swedish sculptor, Gudmar Olovson’s beautiful ’Love garden’ that is also worth the detour. The Loire Valley has much to offer and is at its best when, as in this case, it mixes history with art.

Anne Edelstam

Pablo Reinoso


Château de Chambord

Utställning från den 1 maj till den 4 september 2022