I couldn't sleep last night and was browsing through my BBC News app when I came across an article on the Chinese fashion designer Guo Pei, and how since Rihanna had worn one of her designs she was becoming a worldwide sensation. It reminded me of an article I was commissioned to write back in 2011, where I first discovered this woman's amazing talent. I'm really glad that she is getting the recognition she deserves.
The original publication of the article can be found here: Asia Connect Miami
Image taken from Art-Sheep
Guo Pei and Rose Studio – China’s most inspiring haute couture designer
When you look at Guo Pei’s designs, the first word that comes to mind is not “clothes”, but something more along the lines of “WOW”. To put it simply, this is art. Resplendent, opulent, beautiful art that you can wear.
Guo Pei opened Rose Studios in 1997, when haute couture in China was pretty much non-existent, and is slowly but surely becoming a highly regarded name in the fashion industry, not only in China, but worldwide. Guo Pei is not only the first Chinese haute couture designer, and therefore a trailblazer for Chinese fashion design today, she is also one of the most unique and artistic up-and-coming designers out there in the world. Guo Pei is taking the world by storm with her exquisite designs and is becoming part of the elite group of designers whose creations are considered both fashion and art. In the same vein as Alexander McQueen and John Galliano, Guo Pei’s work is created to wear, but could also easily grace the walls of a museum exhibition.
Guo Pei was born in 1967, at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, and studied at the Beijing Second Light Industry School. Once she graduated she started by working as a dressmaker, gradually working on her own creations as well as commissioned work until she had enough money to branch out on her own with Rose Studio. What is so interesting about Guo Pei is that she did not have access to other haute couture creations outside of China, so all of her designs and visions are completely original, products of her own extensive imagination. There may be comparisons here and there with other highly successful Western designers, such as McQueen and Galliano, as mentioned earlier, but only because of the highly artistic element in her work. Each design that comes out of Rose Studio is exquisitely original and precious.
When asked why she chose the name “Rose Studio” for her fashion house, Guo Pei’s response is simple and meaningful: “People love the rose, because of its superciliousness and full-bodied fragrance. But, even when it becomes withered, its beauty still never fades away. This is why I love it. A dead rose gave me a comprehension of departed resplendence; a studio full of affective tone brings me more dreams. So, Rose Studio, blossoming at the forefront of fashion like a rose, is a cradle where I can weave my dream.” And these words describe Guo Pei’s art perfectly.
Guo Pei’s designs are the complete opposite of prêt-a-porter wear. She creates serious haute couture in each of her designs. While prêt-a-porter fashion is made for many customers, to wear on a regular basis, Guo Pei’s designs are made to measure for one client at a time. Each design is a separate creation; hand created from scratch, based an individual vision, and, finally, created from the heart. It really is impossible to name each design anything else other than a creation. The words “dress”, “outfit” and “design” really do not do Guo Pei’s work justice. Each piece is a magnificent creation, elaborately designed and developed, rich and artistic, and could easily be considered a museum piece or even a sculpture. It is as if Guo Pei has a vision in her mind of how the outfit is to look on her client, and will painstakingly reproduce this vision into reality. Her creations are artistic and surreal, individual but idealistic. They are portrayals of gothic fairytales that are embellished in China and then introduced to the modern world.
Guo Pei’s inspirations come from fairytales and folk stories, cultural tales and a vivid imagination. Far from being stark, each design is opulent, created using beautiful fabrics and accessories and hand-crafted, using only original materials. Guo Pei employs a large team of tailors and hand embroiderers who work full-time putting the designs together in their final form, from cutting the fabric to the exact measurements, to sewing thousands of Swarkovski crystals to one gown (over 50,000 hours of work!). All creations are supervised by Guo Pei herself, to ensure that her visions are produced in the exact way that she wants them to. Because of Guo Pei’s own experience of first studying fashion, then as being employed as a seamstress, and finally as a budding designer and business owner, she knows the industry inside out and knows exactly what it takes to produce each creation as per her high standards. On top of being an extremely talented designer who has built up her reputation by herself, Guo Pei has also had to learn how to develop her own business acumen. Once upon a time Guo Pei would sometimes create her custom dresses at a loss, but nowadays she knows how to use her talent to also bring in the money. Her designs now draw in the interest of many well-known names, and people flock to see her runway collections.
While Guo Pei has been a rising star in China for years now, the international buzz that is surrounding her is only recent, and is growing in momentum with her every move. In 2008 she was commissioned to design the dresses of the presenters during the Beijing Olympics, cumulating with the dazzling, diamond-studded dress worn by Chinese singer Song Zuying during the closing ceremony. When asked, Guo Pei considers this design the project that she is the most proud of. Not only did it become an internationally acclaimed design, it was also a wonderful portrayal of national spirit, something that Guo Pei is very proud of having participated in. Guo Pei also designs the dresses of the hosts and performers of the annual CCTV Spring Festival in China, watched by a large percentage of the population in China and by Chinese-speakers worldwide. You just have to see the wonderful designs presented in her collection entitled “1002nd Arabian Nights” to see the intricate, original and opulent designs. Unique and full of soul – each creation contains part of herself, a real product of an artist. From the delicate headdresses, via the majestic and inspired dresses to the hand-made platform shoes, there is not one element of each creation that is not awe-inspiring.
Guo Pei’s main advice to other budding designers, in China as well as in the rest of the world, is to love fashion, because “talent cannot work without love”. Other advice is to know how to create a design from scratch, to be able to create from your own hands before employing others to help you. Don’t be afraid to work your way up and put in hours of manual work to develop your skills. Guo Pei’s says that design and business need to be created “by your own hands”.
When asked if she plans on opening up her business to the US and Latin American market, Guo Pei’s response is that there is a large market and space for haute couture to develop in the US and Latin America, and it is also “a platform to display your ability”. Once Rose Studio has reached a certain level and once various conditions have been met, Guo Pei will consider a plan to enter the American market.
Designer, couturière, artist and smart business woman: Guo Pei is all of these and more! While Guo Pei’s reputation as being the best dressmaker and designer in China is fim, she is just only beginning to become a name in the world of haute couture outside of China. She is bringing her own vision to an established world that is welcoming her with opening arms – this is only the beginning!