Exhibit SF: Pulp Fashion, Isabelle de Borchgrave

What if at every memorable moment of your life your favorite song played? That’s the kind of day I had with my friends exiting the Legion of Honor from the exhibit, Pulp Fashion. A guitarist was playing his rendition of Pachelbel’s Canon in D outside of the museum and it made that moment even more beautiful.

I guess that’s what artists do, make people think and think again, induce a sense of euphoria, or revive a buried emotion. Creative people always intrigue me. There always seems to be something chemically imbalanced in their minds and things that are soulfully so wrong that it manifests into something so right.

Masterpieces aren’t created by dabbling a little here and a little there. I wondered how obsessed and ingeniously kooky a person like Isabelle de Borchgrave would have to be to recreate such colossal yet delicate dresses which her husband, Werner, admits to, “crazy – they cost a fortune to make, are totally useless, but people love them.”

Fashion always becomes a nostalgic reference to look back on and may inspire the creative souls to imitate or recreate. Fashion especially becomes historically endowed as critical points of the past when iconic figures dawn memorable looks of that decade. de Borchgrave uses the idealistic medium of fashions past to create her jaw-dropping pieces with the unconventional medium of clothing of rag paper. Her current exhibit ‘Pulp Fashion,’ at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, showcases over 60 of her hand-made dresses revisiting over 300 years of fashion history from the extravagance of the Renaissance to the haute looks of Christian Dior and Coco Chanel.

Her painstaking process of crumpling, crinkling, creasing, burning edges, and hand-painting are just some of the key ingredients needed to make convincing life-sized dresses that mimic every fold, drape , dye treatment, and embellishment of real fabric. The outcome of her skills are so persuasive that triple, quadruple takes are necessary to realize that dainty piece of lace was somehow hand-painted on sheer rice paper.

De Borchgrave left the nest at the tender age of 14 with her parents’ blessing to pursue art, something she always knew to be her destiny and enrolled at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels. As an adult, she found interests other than painting which ultimately spawned her current artistic passion and career. Inspired by fashion, details of fabrics in paintings made her yearn to recreate everything for herself. As a parent, she had already made exquisite paper dresses for her children.

Her obsession has turned into a worldwide tour of exhibits which is definitely worth visiting as it is art defined and intertwined by the aspects of fashion, painting, history, crafting, but most importantly the creative dream and ingenuity of the artist that turned into a sensational delight for the viewing public.

‘Pulp Fashion: The Art of Isabelle de Borchgrave‘ is running from February 5, 2011 through June 5, 2011 at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. For details, visit, www.legionofhonor.famsf.org/

5 thoughts on “Exhibit SF: Pulp Fashion, Isabelle de Borchgrave

  1. Honestly, this was one of the coolest things I have ever seen. The compulsion to touch the clothes, just to see if they are really paper was so strong because they were just too amazing. I've found myself telling everyone to go see it. Amazing!

  2. LOVED this exhibit!!!! I had to be convinced that some of the lace was really paper a few times because it really did have the look and flow of fabric. This is a fantastic summary and history! You're a beautiful writer Elli, I feel like I'm there again. Great job sneaking a photo:)

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