A World of Paper

Evening gowns, finely decorated capes, brightly colored caftans, regally designed women’s dresses, handbags, shoes and accessories. Over eighty works in paper presented some months ago by Isabelle de Borchgrave for the exhibition “Un Mondo di Carta” (A World of Paper) in Venice (Italy), until November 30th, in the magical ambience of the Palazzo Fortuny.

Nico Zardo

Isabelle de Borchgrave was born with a pencil in her hand. At fourteen, she attended the graphic arts courses of the Centre des Arts Dècoratifs in Brussels and at seventeen she entered the world of fashion, painting fabric for dresses. The success of her creations leads her to open an atelier, “La Tour de Bèbelle”, where clothes and foulards are made. Today, in her Brussels atelier, producers coming from the world over find inspiration for the creation of fabrics, rugs, shawls, plates and also stationery.

Observing her works, we can detect two guidelines of artistic inspiration. A classical one that leads to the creation of style and design models that span in time from the end of the Empire and Victorian eras to the Twenties (D’Annunzio and Proust); and a second, more intriguing, “ethnic” phase, born from her travel experiences, brimming with the strength of oriental colors and designs.

The unique skill of the artist lies in her ability to capture the figurative elements characteristic of a given culture and to re-interpret them, thus contaminating them, to be returned to us with a surprising feeling of “déjà vu”.


THE MEANS USED FOR ALL HER CREATIONS IS WHITE PAPER. Wrinkled, pleated, perforated, treated like a fabric, skillfully decorated with patience and great expertise, modeled (thanks to the collaboration with Rita Brown for the creation of the models): in the hands of the artist, this simple material turns into unique and surprising clothes/works of art. The technique is the same as that used by a high fashion atelier: from the paper pattern made on a mannequin, instead of cloth, paper is used and on it, Isabelle applies free-hand decorations, motifs and colors. The use of colors and stencils varies according to the inspiration of the moment.


THIS EXHIBITION RESEMBLES A WORK-IN-PROGRESS: it is born in the 1990s when, having visited an Yves Saint-Laurent exhibition, Isabelle has the idea to create a new series of clothing in paper that tell the story of fashion. In 1998, in Moulhouse, with the “Papier à la mode” exhibition, the Belgian artist, in collaboration with Rita Brown for the tailoring aspects, exhibits decorated costumes and accessories made entirely of paper. Since then, the exhibition has traveled throughout Europe, the United States, the Orient, enriching itself at each trip with new creations that obtain their inspiration from the culture of the show’s host countries.


ISABELLE’S CREATIONS ARE PERFECT FOR THE HOUSE/PALAZZO THAT BELONGED TO MARIANO FORTUNY and propose an affinity between the two artists. Mariano Fortuny (1871-1949), Spanish, born into the artistry, establishes himself in Venice and, as a young man, becomes interested in painting and stage-design. In the twenties, he begins to create and produce printed fabrics and cloths that make him famous worldwide. His works, still present in the palazzo in furnishings, paintings and sculptures, constitute a fascinating space, one that seems to have stopped in time, where Isabelle’s paper clothes make passion for art come to life once more. •

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