Guo Pei: China's timeless haute couturier



For many people, the fashion world is a place where fame meets fortune. Tall, slim supermodels strut elegantly in clothes decorated in gold and silver; luxury goods are produced from this array of fancy attire and subsequently brought into the market, leading the trends of each season. Paris, the world’s fashion capital, has become the place to be for many aspiring designers.

Source: Guo Pei Rose Studio

On the star-lit runways of Paris, a woman from Asia has caught the attention of many in this ever-changing industry.

“I don’t want to design up-to-date fashion," said Guo Pei, one of China’s first-generation fashion designers and haute couturiers. "I refrain from defining the lifespan of anything with time.”

Haute couture is an artistic, personalized method of design that Guo believes outlives the lifespan of “trendy clothes.” She hopes to merge clothes, people and culture into one, to create the sort of fashion that can truly become part of people’s lives.

Guo loves designing wedding gowns, believing that “a single wedding gown can be passed down for three generations.” Traditionally in China, a mother sews her daughter’s wedding gown. Each needle and thread carries the affection and prayers of a mother to her child.

In modern China, only a few wear traditional wedding gowns on their big day. However, today, more celebrities are appearing in public wearing Chinese-style wedding gowns designed by Guo, slowly making her and her traditional handicraft the new mainstream.

Chinese-style wedding gowns designed by Guo Pei, worn by Huang Xiaoming and Angelababy.

Guo's studio is most famous for traditional embroidery. All her designs are handmade, stitch after stitch, by the studio’s embroiderers. Some pieces could take thousands of hours to complete. Authentic gold and silver threads and luxurious fabrics are used, and some of her designs weigh up to a few dozen pounds. Guo emphasizes the importance of the history and heritage of traditional clothes and craftsmanship, so she rarely uses modern technology in her fashion.

Pure handicraft like this is deemed to be valuable enough to pass down to the next few generations.

Guo's designs focus on the aspect of culture. She finds inspiration not only in traditional Chinese culture, but also the cultural exchanges that have been going on for the past few centuries, culminating in the flowers and birds shown in her designs. That’s why, aside from traditional dragon, phoenix, flower and bird patterns, she also incorporates flowers and fruits from western regions into her designs.

In the “Courtyard” series, Guo incorporated patterns showing the flowers and plants that grow inside Chinese courtyards into Western-style gowns, creating a graceful combination of the classic and the modern. This series was the grand finale at the 2016 Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week.

2016 Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week.

Guo's pursuit of beauty and her design aesthetic have garnered the attention of the fashion industry. One of her most recognizable designs was featured on the red carpet at the 2015 Met Gala. Singer Rihanna attended the annual event draped in a yellow dress and dramatic, fur-lined cape designed by Guo.

At her 2017 Paris fashion show “Legend,” 86-year-old supermodel Carmen Dell'Orefice, known as the world's oldest working supermodel, closed Guo's show in a blood-red gown.

Carmen Dell'Orefice, the world's oldest working supermodel, closed the show for Guo Pei in 2017.

The two also collaborated back in 2010 during her “One Thousand and Two Nights” show. Upon seeing her design, Carmen said: “Pure beauty like this has left me in awe.”

Carmen Dell'Orefice.

“Through handicraft, I want to convey a state of mind, a true aspiration,” said Guo, who sometimes embroiders her own designs. She believes that haute couture can help people rise above themselves to create better things, leaving memories for future generations.

Perhaps, for her customers and audience, the beauty of her designs is indeed a path to eternity.