Artist Spotlight: Isabelle de Borchgrave

For the Love of Paper: Caspari believes in the work of the artists we partner with, and this is no more apparent than in our ongoing collaboration with Isabelle de Borchgrave, a creative powerhouse best known for her paper-based sartorial collections.

Although trained as a painter, Isabelle de Borchgrave has a longstanding passion for working with paper. She once told Vogue, “Paper gives you freedom: You can paint on it, shrink it, iron it, and mimic fabrics such as linen, velvet, brocade, taffeta, and satin by playing with trompe l’oeil and illusion.”

Given her fascination, it’s perhaps not surprising that de Borchgrave’s designs have graced Caspari’s fine paper goods for more than 30 years. “I see [the partnership with Caspari] as a long-lasting friendship,” she says.

But how did the partnership come about? “The president of Caspari had seen my paper dresses and came to visit my studio in Brussels,” explains de Borchgrave. “She was so enthusiastic that she helped me set up an exhibition of my dresses, in partnership with Canadian costume designer Rita Brown, at the Musée de l’Impression sur Etoffes in Mulhouse, France.”

This landmark collection, titled Papiers a la Mode, traveled around the world from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London to the Flanders Fashion Institute in Antwerp and established de Borchgrave as a world-renowned artist with a style all her own.

We chatted with de Borchgrave about her favorite Caspari designs, where she finds artistic inspiration and what’s next for this multifaceted artist.

Some of your iconic Caspari designs include Isabelle’s Garden, Frida, Plumes de Brazil, Alhambra and Palazzo. Do you have a personal favorite?

I’ll always have a soft spot for Isabelle’s Garden, as I absolutely love flowers and nature in general.

The inspiration for each Caspari design, and for my artwork in general, comes from my travels: the feathers of Brazil, the Palazzos of Venice, the Islamic architectural influences of the Alhambra in Spain, Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul in Mexico, etc.

I love fabrics and the different influences and styles you can find in every corner of the world.

Caspari's Frida Luncheon Napkins designed by Isabelle de Borchgrave
Isabelle's Garden guest towels, designed by Isabelle de Borchgrave for Caspari

 

Speaking of Frida Kahlo, tell us about your upcoming exhibition at the Fine Arts Museum in Brussels.

I’m very excited to have a museum exhibition in my hometown. It’s a project I started working on right before Covid hit us. 

I’ve recreated 10 life-size rooms of Frida’s Casa Azul in Mexico [the residence where Kahlo lived most of her life] as well as 40 of her dresses, all out of paper of course. So museum-goers will literally be walking through Frida’s home & garden, with all the furniture, plants, trees, animals, etc. made out of paper. It will be a truly unique experience. The exhibition will take place from mid-October 2022 until mid-February 2023. 

Frida Kahlo's Casa Azul in Mexico, image courtesy of Vogue France.
Frida Kahlo's Casa Azul in Mexico (image courtesy of Vogue).

You mentioned travel as an important source of inspiration. Has travel influenced any of your upcoming projects?

This summer (July-August 2022), I’m doing an exhibition about the Nile River for Berko Fine Paintings in Knokke, Belgium. Egypt is a subject I’ve been working on for quite a while now and was never completely satisfied with the result. We went to Egypt last November where we traveled on a boat down the Nile, and I filled pages and pages of my travel journals with watercolors and drawings. Something just clicked, and I am now absolutely delighted with the result (of this project).

What medium(s) are you working in these days?

My focus for the moment is a lot on paintings and bronze sculptures but there will always be room for a dress in the mix. The medium of choice has, and always will be, paper.

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