Three local artists take on the challenge of creating ready-to-wear replicas from the Speed Art Museum’s Isabelle de Borchgrave exhibition
By Laura Ross
Photos by Kathryn Harrington and provided by the Speed Art Museum
The Speed Art Museum’s wildly popular spring exhibition, “Isabelle de Borchgrave: Fashioning Art from Paper” features life-size, trompe l’œil paper costumes by Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave. Following a visit to the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum in 1994, de Borchgrave began crafting the first of four major paper trompe l’œil fashion collections. The collections are based on three hundred years of fashion history from Elizabeth I to the Ballets Russes, the sumptuous Florentine ceremonial dress of the Medici family, and through the elegance of twentieth-century Venice fashion. “As with any new exhibition, the Speed team always develops creative events and ideations to complement the art,” said Karen Tate, Speed Art Museum advancement & programming events manager.
Since this exhibition focuses more on fashion – an unusual turn for the museum – the team took its creativity to a new level. “We kept coming back to the television show, Project Runway,” laughed Tate. “We proposed our ideas to local artists and designers and decided to create our own Project Runway of sorts.” In partnership with The Voice of Louisville and others, three local designers were selected for the creative project. The artists are noted national designer and Project Runway veteran Frankie Lewis, the Voice of Louisville Art Director Pascalle Ballard and Owner of Evangalique Designs Edward Taylor, who each selected an inspiration piece from the exhibition and were tasked with designing and creating a ready-to-wear garment suitable for contemporary fashionistas. Their enthusiasm matches the popularity of the “Fashioning Art from Paper” exhibition.
“There has been so much excitement around this exhibition recently,” said Tate. “It’s so unique and fun, and perfect for the summer, with such bright, warm colors. We’ve had great attendance and I always see people milling about, smiling and full of energy. It’s just pure joy for the museum.” The designers have spent the past three months working on the project. Their completed designs will be showcased in a private, in-gallery runway showcase at the Speed Art Museum on June 10.
Louisville native and Los Angeles-based designer Frankie Lewis can’t wait. “I may live in Los Angeles, but Louisville has my heart,” Lewis said. “I’ll never turn down a chance to work with my fellow artists in the community.” Lewis was drawn to “Banyan and Waistcoat,” a copy of an outfit worn by Peter the Great of Russia in 1730. “I knew I had to bring that look from its time to our time,” she said. “As a designer, I love the texture, volume, lines and architecture of a piece. This is the perfect opportunity to play with all those elements in one look.” Lewis promises a creative take on the coat’s new design. “I enjoy the floral vibe it has and I’m obsessed with the volume that can be achieved with a coat like that.”
Pascalle Ballard is not only a talented artist but also The Voice of Louisville’s Art Director. “This project has been exciting to me because it’s such a perfect dovetailing of some of my favorite things, like adapting fashion from history and art,” Ballard said. “But as I’ve worked to create the outfit and involved hair and makeup artist Tyler Mattingly and model Wy Rose, I think we’ve all become excited about the collaboration aspect and utilizing our individual skills into something bigger.” Ballard chose the “Elizabeth I Court Dress,” by de Borchgrave, which was inspired by a 1599 portrait of Queen Elizabeth I by the studio of Nicolas Hilliard. “The ensemble I’m working on keeps a little of the drama and motifs of the original Isabelle de Borchgrave piece, but could easily be worn out to a coffee date.” Ballard continued, “The original inspiration piece has so much gorgeous detail, so choosing which aspects to include to keep the signature look, while making it more modern, has taken a few revisions but been great fun. I’ve also really enjoyed selecting the fabrics for this – look for vintage velveteen and hand-illustrated custom print satin. There’s a lot of room for interpretation.”
Edward Taylor, owner of Louisville-based Evangalique Designs, agreed. Translating de Borchgrave’s interpretation of “Paysanne,” a 1915 Ballets Russes costume originally designed by Mikhail Larionov for the ballet ”Soleil de Nuit,” involved welcomed research and creativity. “My garment will be very vibrant with color blocking and a theatrical appeal,” Taylor explained. “This will be a merge of inspiration of my non-binary brand Evangalique Designs and with the original theatrical design. I will be using a new technique I haven’t done before but staying safe is not what I came to do.” It wasn’t easy translating a ballet ball gown into a modern-day ready-to-wear piece, Taylor added, “I wanted to stay realistic to my concept. Like most artists, I have grand ideas to make a show-stopping piece, but I need it to make sense for the assignment at hand. I promise you this, it will be something new to Louisville, so I hope all the jaws in the room will drop when it appears on the runway.”
The runway show will be recorded and presented as part of the Speed Museum’s popular free Virtual After Hours event on Friday, June 18 at 6 p.m. live on the Speed’s Facebook and YouTube channels. “In addition to the fashion show, After Hours in June will also include a special piano performance from the Louisville Orchestra’s Teddy Abrams. He will be performing repertoire inspired by the Ballets Russes inside the exhibition space,” said Tate.
Tate and the rest of the Museum staff are having fun guessing at the final designs. “I grew up watching Project Runway, and I was ready to make that happen,” said Tate, adding, “I can only imagine how this will turn out. The designers can go in so many directions with it, and I know they will interpret that very well. I’ve been tickled to see it all come together.”
Speed Art Museum
2035 South Third Street
Louisville, KY 40208