from 50 european destinations.
here’s a surface calm in Isabelle de Borchgrave’sBrussels studio – a peaceful, light filled space withfat koi carp swimming languidly in a pool in theleafy garden. However, when you look more closely,it’s a hum of intense and industrious activity.People are measuring, cutting and painting, heads bowedover two long tables. A man adds embellishments to avase and two women apply a delicate pattern of gold paint toa length of drapery. Overlooking it all from the second-floorgallery are rows of mannequins dressed in the outfits thatmade Isabelle famous: delicate pastel crinolines, vivid folkcostumes from Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, Renaissancepages in brocade tunics. And all of them, everything, made ofpaper. The plain white rolls are here too, propped against thewalls and awaiting a credibility-defying transformation.In the middle of it all is de Borchgrave herself, a busy,diminutive figure in a navy fisherman’s sweater with asuspicion of paint around the cuffs, looking far youngerthan her 66 years. She darts across the studio, pausing togive instructions, conferring and appraising. When we sitdown in her library, packed to the rafters with art and historybooks, she thrums with barely suppressed impatienceto get back to work: it’s just days before the opening ofher new exhibition, and there’s plenty still to do.The exhibition,
Fortuny by Isabelle de Borchgrave: A World of Paper
, is ambitious: less a straight tribute to thefin-de-siècle couturier than a sensory journey through hisimagination. As well as around 40 extraordinary replicasof Fortuny’s dresses, it echoes his travels and influences,with scents and music from North Africa and Asia, as well
On the eve of a major exhibition celebrating the work of 18th-century couturierMariano Fortuny, Isabelle de Borchgrave – the Belgian designer famed for her exquisitepaper creations – talks to
about the passions that drive herPhotography