Guo Pei makes art from fashion, exemplifying the rise of Chinese couture


By Cintra Wilson

Unique to The Examiner

If you have at any time had doubts about no matter if vogue could be thought of artwork, this is the exhibit that will persuade you. The Legion of Honor is hosting a lavish retrospective of the couture designer Guo Pei — much more than 75 parts selected from the runways of Paris and Beijing over the previous two many years. The work is otherworldly and dazzling — just about every piece represents virtually thousands of hours of painstaking, pro sartorial artistry. These treasures are featured in the remarkably suitable setting of the Legion of Honor’s neoclassical architecture and its different art-crammed rooms.

Guo Pei is most likely greatest regarded for dressing Rihanna for the 2015 Fulfilled Gala in a canary yellow gown with a prepare that demanded 3 folks to maneuver (a costume that took 2 many years and 50,000 hours to assemble).

In 2016, she became the next Chinese-born and -educated designer to be inducted into the French trend industry’s Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture that 12 months, she also was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People today.

Guo Pei, now 55, hails from Beijing, in which she expended her early childhood beneath the restrictions of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. Taught to sew by her mom, she rebelled from the needed “Mao suit” garments restrictions and dared to wear oversize dresses.

Her grandmother was a repository of memory from China’s opulent, imperial past, and advised youthful Guo Pei of wonderful silken gowns, lavishly embellished with regular embroidery.

When Mao died and Deng Xiaoping took around as paramount chief of China in 1978, Guo Pei was presented the prospect to implement to university and was recognized into a government manner plan.

Immediately after graduating with a diploma in manner, she worked for just one of China’s first branded apparel suppliers. She was effective there, but remaining to commence her personal style home and atelier, named Rose Studio, employing 25 staff. Section of her plan was to revive the common dressmaking skills misplaced all through the Cultural Revolution.

As Guo Pei instructed curator Jill D’Allessandro, “I preferred my selection to describe reincarnation of not only human life, from life to dying, but also of my tradition. … During the Cultural Revolution, they destroyed their individual tradition, but my era found it again.”

Her Rose Studio now employs nearly 500 individuals, able of the sort of classic needlework and other types of tailoring wizardry and know-how usually reserved for the Papacy or royal weddings.

Guo Pei’s vision advanced more immediately after frequent outings to Europe, where by she was uncovered to Western art, architecture and high vogue. The get the job done highlighted in this exhibition is an outrageous and sublime fusion of her Chinese heritage mixed with the elaborate fashions of the French court and even religious vestments — creations best for a Eurasian incarnation of the goddess Quan Yin, if she have been off to Self-importance Fair’s Oscar right after bash, or Girl Gaga, if she were being also the infallible Phrase of God.

“Faith, goals, devotion and love” are what Guo Pei statements are her motivators, in accordance to a recorded online video concept from the artist to the museum. (Guo Pei herself was sad to say detained because of to COVID limits.) She is also explicitly motivated by Imperial China, European court docket lifestyle, theater, Chinese export art and the entire world of botany. The Catholic Church and its regalia has of course produced very an effect on her as properly, as observed by an huge golden gown replete with orphreys that would seem correct at household on the Infant of Prague.

To stroll via her couture collections is to gasp at impossibly opulent, outstanding feats of time and qualified depth get the job done there are miles of brocade and golden thread splashed around collars and neck-parts, bodices and large trains — veritable wearable Faberge eggs. Very well, theoretically wearable: “I use the pounds of the clothes, the top of the sneakers, and the unwieldiness of the costume to stand for the internal energy and self confidence of a lady,” reads a Guo Pei estimate on a person of the museum walls. A single conjoined pair of robes is actually built to be worn by two women at when (symbolizing the coexistence of two worlds in a person location).

There is also a playfulness and humor at perform in Guo Pei’s creations that is both coquettish and sexy. There are gowns that on major resemble what Marie Antoinette may put on to go bullfighting, but with tiered and layered silk miniskirts that give off a type of botanical flapper/1960s gogo dancer silhouette.

While finding out from costume makers how to composition hoop skirts, Guo Pei found a really like for bamboo and basketry, which is employed in numerous pieces that make short dresses seem like the kind of golden lampshades you’d locate at the Sultan of Brunei’s home.

In the L’Architecture collection — from Guo Pei’s Tumble/Winter season 2018 runway assortment at the Cité de l’Architecture in Paris — there are midi-size robes encrusted with bead-function, detailing Gothic church buildings, and attire designed from translucent panels, embroidered with avenue scenes.

An additional space consists of items from “East Palace,” Guo Pei’s Spring/Summer time 2019 assortment, which was encouraged by up to date requires on what Guo Pei imagined ladies putting on in the Forbidden Town for the duration of the Qing dynasty (1644-1912). Fabrics incorporating mom-of-pearl have been produced for her recognizably Chinese silhouettes are given daring new cutaways and ridiculously associated bead-work.

In addition to its personal gallery, Guo Pei’s creations are also studded in the course of the most important floor of the museum, making exceptional juxtapositions involving her is effective and artworks from Italy in the 1600s and France in the 1700s and spiritual artworks from the Renaissance.

This show is a do not-overlook knowledge for fashionistas and non-fashionistas alike. Guo Pei is a couture mastermind, and her get the job done is China’s declaration that it, way too, has gained a very important area on the world’s fashion runways.


“Guo Pei: Couture Fantasy”

Where by: Legion of Honor, 100 34th Ave., S.F.

When: 9:30 am-5:15 p.m., Tuesdays-Sundays

Tickets: $15 youth, $21 college student, $27 senior, $30 adult

Contacts: (415) 750-3600,

Guo Pei’s Elysium dress from her Spring-Summer 2018 collection. (Photograph by Lian Xu, Courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco)

Guo Pei’s Elysium gown from her Spring-Summer months 2018 collection. (Photograph by Lian Xu, Courtesy of the Great Arts Museums of San Francisco)


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