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borchgrave in bellevue

city scene

January 2014

Lauren Hunsberger

City Scene

City Scene photo

When Isabelle de Borchgrave goes about constructing a new dress or pair of shoes for her collection, she uses a much different approach than most designers do. 

And that’s because her textile of choice is paper. But not just any paper—paper that has been expertly hand-painted or sketched on with chalk, charcoal or pastels and intricately folded and manipulated into her shape of choice.

She can get away with this unique process because the often opulent and elaborate garments are not for wearing, although those who see her beautiful work might wish they could.

Instead, they are for showing—in elite museums around the world, including a recent exhibition at the Bellevue Arts Museum for de Borchgrave’s “Fortuny Collection,” which is a collection of works created in homage to the early 20th century Spanish couturier Mariano Fortuny. Fortuny was known for his renowned Delphos dresses, which were inspired by classical Greek and Italian forms.

“Bellevue Arts Museum is the premier U.S. museum for presenting Isabelle de Borchgrave’s ‘Fortuny Collection’ in its entirety,” says Elizabeth Martin-Calder, director of strategic marketing and engagement for the Bellevue Arts Museum. “This exhibition offers a rare glimpse into the minds of not one, but two, influential international artists, and we are thrilled to be bringing this collection to the Pacific Northwest, especially to Bellevue.”

The exhibition at the Bellevue Arts Museum is called “A World of Paper, A World of Fashion” and features 35 opulent three-dimensional dresses, 20 flat costumes, and numerous accessories, including shoes, jewelry, boxes and vases. The exhibition also features preparatory sketches, reproductions of de Borchgrave’s and Fortuny’s studios, and a room-sized oriental tent—all made entirely of paper.

And this collection is just one of the Belgian artist’s four paper wardrobes. The others include “Papiers à la Mode,” a celebration of fashion over the past 300 years, ranging from Elizabeth I to Coco Chanel; “Splendor of the Medici,” inspired by Florentine fashion; and “Les Ballets Russes,” a tribute to Sergi Diaghilev, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.

A World of Paper, A World of Fashion is running through Feb. 16, 2014. For more information about the exhibition, visit For more information about de Borchgrave and her art, visit

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