“I don’t follow trends or try to compete with anyone. Everything I do stems from following my passion and my love for design.” -Guo Pei, interview with Forbes Magazine
Welcome to the world of Guo Pei. She’s made fashion waves across the globe with her haute couture creations. The details found on one gown can take a team several months, and even years to complete. Her inspiration stems from the world around her. From catholic churches, to her own Chinese heritage, Guo makes fashion its own genre of art. You may have seen her Masterpieces at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “China: Through the Looking Glass” show and on Rihanna herself.
Think of her work as one-of-a-kind, like the process it takes to proclaim sparkling wine can be named Champagne. Champagne is called ‘sparkling wine’ everywhere else around the world, except for Champagne, France. It has to be produced there to a certain standard to hold this title. Guo’s work is considered, in a sense, the ‘champagne of fashion.’ The Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in Paris'( the chief governing body of the high-fashion industry) invited her into the group as a guest member. She meets the criteria to proclaim her work as Haute Couture and has a house in Paris where she showcases her work. Within the organization’s 151st-year history, Guo is the first born-and-raised Asian designer to receive such an honor in the organization’s 147-year history.
I got to see her work at the Bower’s Museum this past weekend, and she wanted every single spectator to know that her gowns are “Art.” Her creations reveal a rich history and love for her culture. She makes outfits for individuals in business realm, royalty, government, weddings, entertainers, and many more. She has ready-to-go wear that draws in anyone who wants to be seen. The word ‘innovative’ does not give her artwork justice. Her clothing pieces are out of this world! She is leading the next generation of craftsmanship. The details of her embroidery takes time and precision.
Guo inspires a lifestyle in fashion that requires us to show up and show out for our own cultural heritage and traditions. She also inspires us to find beauty within everything we see. When starting out, she was encouraged to “make things that sell” rather than creating couture gowns. She is very appreciative of her beginnings as a designer, especially because she was the first class to graduate from China’s first-ever fashion design school, the Beijing Second Light Industry School. She graduated during a time of growing economic openness under the post-Mao reforms implemented by Deng Xiaoping in the late 80s. With her previous employers, she learned the habit of producing 1,000 designs a year, and she continues this work flow today in her business.
Her work reminds me to always give honor to my own culture as well as for other cultures. She inspires me to wear clothing loud and proud, with no trails of shame. She helps me to see we should never stretch for the fame- just do what you love and you will be called in front of kings to display your talents. She knew she wanted to get into designing as she began sowing at the age of 2 years old. I was very ecstatic to see her gifting on display in the Bowers Museum. Each action she took was a step towards her ultimate dream. She now employs thousands of workers, some assigned as embroiderers, designers, pattern cutters and sewing technicians. Guo’s team of artisans are chosen from all over the country and she trains them in the traditional way of Chinese needlework, among other skills. She says that this tradition almost died during the communist era. Her team produces 3,000 to 4,000 couture items annually! She says she treats her staff as family, a value that proves to be promising and loving. I am inspired by her entrepreneurship. She never sells her gowns as she considers them masterpieces. She receives finances in other creative ways, making her a leader in the fashion industry. This Queen of Haute Couture has created a beautiful dynasty- a fashion kingdom China finds inspiring. I recommend for you to go and see Guo Pei’s work at the Bower’s Museum before it’s too late! She also has a documentary called, “Yellow is Forbidden.”
“About Guo Pei” – Guo Pei website, www.GuoPei.fr