Paper is a magical material. Its thousands of faces have the power to attract and enchant us, to direct our lives and change their course, to teach us, to influence our opinion, and to mark our daily existence. From our youngest years, paper helps us to create our individual versions of beauty – small, clumsy fingers transform sheets of coloured paper into trees, misshapen pieces of fruit or fantastical beasts. And by making paper into new shapes and covering its many surfaces with colours, drawings, numbers, letters and symbols, we finally learn how to master it.

Notepaper, newspaper, wallpaper, rice paper, and papier-mâché… Paper, born thousands of years ago of the papyrus plant, does not shy from pseudonyms, hiding behind such noms de plume as vellum, Holland, Indian, peau de cygne and parchment. Tucked into envelopes, it is paper that holds our most tender thoughts and fiery messages. It has taken the place of our ancestors' silver; paper stokes the greed of forgers, misers and conquerors of every stripe. And while paper is pleasing to the eye, it is just as charming to the ear. It crackles and trembles. It whispers and rustles. When you brush against it, it swishes like an ingénue's silk dress. And when flames lick around it, it snaps and sizzles and dies with a nearly inaudible whisper.

Isabelle de Borchgrave knows all this and more. For her, paper is an open book. Beneath her nimble fingers, her preferred material bends to her every whim. Isabelle left the world of fashion and fabrics to devote herself to dresses and objects made of paper. Her magic touch creates garments that rival the likes of Rose Bertin, Paquin and Mariano Fortuny, and all from paper – that she cuts, glues and paints with imagination and exceptional mastery, creating the illusion of lace from Bruges, Renaissanceera brocade and delicate silk à la Pompadour...

To read this article in full, order your copy of Selvedge issue 34 here.

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