The Beijing and Paris Designer Seamlessly Sews Fashion and Art Together With Inspirations From Her Upbringing
Written By: Jordan Nishkian
Photography Provided By: ©Guo Pei, Rose Studios Guo Pei Exhibit
From Mar. 9 to Jul. 14, 2019, the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana will be hosting an incredible 40-gown exhibition from world-renowned couture designer, Guo Pei. At first glance, the exhibit is a beautiful barrage of sequins and luxe fabrics, but the closer you look, the more apparent it is that each thread, fold and crease of material has its purpose. This dedication to detail and craftsmanship is what sets Guo Pei apart from the rest and is also what distinguishes her work from clothing to wearable art.
Guo Pei, who took an interest in dressmaking as a young girl, is one of the most well-recognized couturiers coming out of China. From learning to sew when she was two years old to graduating at the top of her class from the Beijing School of Industrial Fashion Design, it was clear that Guo Pei’s passion and precision would drive her to great heights. After working for major manufacturers for a decade, Guo Pei launched her own label and atelier, Rose Studio, where she employed about 500 highly-skilled artisans to help bring her incredible designs to life. From there, Guo Pei’s name and success have reached incredible heights, eventually allowing her to launch her eponymous brand and a new studio on the famed Rue Saint Honoré in Paris.
When she first began her career, there was “not a strong presence in the fashion industry in China.” But now that Guo Pei has seen success in her art, she is constantly motivated and inspired to make up for lost time and tell China’s story—from its myth and folklore to its global, modern-day presence. From the cyclical theme of Samsara to the intricate lattice-work of Elysium, Guo Pei: Couture Beyond is a marvelous collection of masterpieces that fashionistas and artists alike can enjoy.
In this simply stunning line, Guo Pei showcases her uncanny ability to juxtapose strong shapes with feminine softness. It is derived from the Buddhist idea of samsara: a cycle of life and death that the material world is tied to. The line showcases dazzling gold hues and deep midnight blues—a call to day and night as well as life and death. Featuring 24-karat gold and silver-spun thread, Swarovski crystal embellishments and relief embroidery, these pieces are definitely ones you should see in this lifetime.
An Amazing Journey in a Childhood Dream
Conceptualized during her pregnancy, Guo Pei was inspired by a fantastical child dreamworld to create this line. With strong influences from Spanish bullfighting jackets as well as the intricate folds of Japanese paper art, An Amazing Journey in a Childhood Dream encapsulates a candy-colored delicateness of juxtaposed by a striking architecture. Guo Pei’s own childhood was also an influence. “Every night when I was four or five, [my grandmother] described dresses that women wore in the old days,” Guo Pei reminisces, “and I pictured them before I fell asleep.”
Although Guo Pei’s work is always motivated by bringing pride and artistic representation to her country, like any artist, inspiration is everywhere. Her 1002 Nights line is inspired by the famous framework story of the Arabian Nights folktales and features Guo Pei’s interpretations of empresses, princesses and queens. The line showcases four “queen” gowns, one of which was worn by a familiar face at the Met Gala in 2015.
“It is so common to see the design involving dragons in Beijing,” says Guo Pei. “Such a totem has impressed me deeply when I was a child; I fell in love with this element and will yield to this in my design unconsciously.” The dragon, usually considered a masculine symbol, has been turned on its head by Guo Pei’s designs, which have seen the totem take a more feminine form—especially in her embroidered silk Legend of the Dragon gown.
This line, inspired by the gardens in which Van Gogh painted his irises, features incredible floral details made with silk thread, Swarovski crystals and brass hardware. To add to their extravagance, each piece is completed with its own headpiece and shoes. Not only is 2015 the year Guo Pei released her impressive Garden of Soul line, which was created in collaboration with MAC Cosmetics, it was also the year in which Rihanna graced the Met Gala’s red carpet in one of Guo Pei’s queen gowns from 1002 Nights.
As Guo Pei’s second haute couture collection, it’s no wonder that this line is what lead her to an amazing achievement: she is the first Chinese national to be invited as a guest member of Paris’ Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. Within Encounter, make sure to pay special attention to the silver coat lined with feather and fur trim— she considers the coat to be her masterpiece. The delicate nature of the silver thread made it incredibly difficult to work with, and it took master embroiderers 6,000 to finish. Guo Pei saw this as such a labor of love that she stitched her signature into the lining with her own hair!
Inspired by a church in Switzerland, Legend is a gorgeous collection with strong influences drawn from Christian art and architecture. If you look closely, you can see that many of the gowns are made from a material which features Michelangelo’s famous scene in the Sistine Chapel. Although not a Christian herself, she is inspired by “the devotion” of the religion and sees this devotion as a virtue that she herself applies to her work. 2017 not only saw the completion of this spectacular line, but it was also the year in which Guo Pei opened her studio on Paris’ Rue Saint Honoré!
This line is from Guo Pei’s fifth runway show in Paris and is named after the idea of eternal bliss. Never before seen off the runway, the star of Elysium is probably one of the most intricate and stunning gowns you will ever see. Inspired strongly by African culture, one of the gowns, which she calls “Big Gold,” was created with gold lace and latticed pieces of bamboo harvested from the Huangshan, Anhui province.
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Born and raised near the Pacific Coast, Jordan Nishkian is a California girl through and through. She graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a BA in Creative Writing and a BA in Anthropology, and her favorite place to be is curled up in a comfy chair with a book in her hand and a pen in her hair.