“Clothing happens to be the architecture of the body” Guo PeiThe quote can be read on a wall of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, where 80 of her dresses are on display until November. There “Guo Pei: couture fantasy“The exhibition unfolds like poetry; a simple quick presentation will grip viewers with her artistic level. Describing Pei simply as a fashion designer is not enough to capture the grandeur and technical prowess of her work. Borrowing freely from a multiplicity of sources – be it China’s imperial past, the natural world or European architecture – Pei creates exquisitely crafted garments that intersect with fashion, performance art and sculpture. some of his pieces – like the Da Jin dress on display at the exhibition – take tens of thousands of hours to execute.
“Clothing happens to be the architecture of the body.”
“I’m very lucky to be destined to make clothes,” she told POPSUGAR. Pei’s journey to become the second Chinese designer invited as a guest member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture (the French couture authority) has been remarkable. Born in Beijing, she developed an early passion for embroidered clothing through her maternal grandmother, who told stories of her upbringing during China’s last imperial era. She spoke of elaborately embroidered Chinese court dresses, which contrasted with what Pei saw at the time, as embroidered clothing was banned during the Cultural Revolution. “Back then, there was no color in clothes, everything was plain,” says Pei. Her fascination with beautiful clothes deepened when she began sewing with her mother, whose glaucoma prevented her from continuing to make clothes for the family.
Pei then enrolled in China’s first-ever fashion program and spent a decade working in branded companies. Still, she aspired to create embroidered clothing, so she eventually set out to revive the art on her own. As it was no longer taught to girls by the 1930s, she traveled to different villages to find artisans, eventually starting her own practice, Rose Studio, in 1997. Today it employs 450 artisans, including 300 embroiderers .
Many know her as the designer of Rihanna’s gold-embroidered dress at the 2015 Met Gala, but Pei was an acclaimed designer long before that moment. The couture designer has managed to turn her love of fantasy, architecture and spirituality into an illustrious career marked by her technical innovation and global perspective.
“Inspiration, I believe, is an accumulation of love towards life.”
Pei’s well of inspiration is still not exhausted. The legendary designer talks to POPSUGAR about her childhood, the evolution of fashion in China and her hopes for the future of the industry. Read ahead for the full interview, slightly edited for clarity.