If I'm lucky and can schedule the travel, I manage to see about 3 major fashion exhibitions each year. 2019 has taken me to Fort Worth for Balenciaga in Black, to Dallas for Dior: From Paris to the World and most recently, to Orange County, CA for Guo Pei: Couture Beyond.
Guo Pei was by far my favorite of the three ~ absolutely phenomenal couture work! The mannequins are on low platforms so you can really lean in close and see the detail work. And visitors can walk around the platforms to see garments from all angles. Two big pluses in my book!
Guo Pei is a Chinese couturier with an international clientele of the super-wealthy, including celebrities, royalty and politicians. She graduated from the Beijing School of Industrial Fashion Design in 1986 and founded her label and atelier, Rose Studio, in 1997. She currently employs nearly 500 skilled artisans. A single dress may require thousands of hours of intricate handwork and take years to complete. Prices range from $100,000 to millions of dollars.
Guo Pei's own celebrity in the West was boosted by a single red carpet moment in May 2015, when Rihanna wore a stunning imperial yellow silk cape to the Met Gala and Opening Reception of the China: Through the Looking Glass exhibition. If you haven't seen the documentary film First Monday in May, I highly recommend it.
The cape weighs 55 lbs, has a 16 ft train and features over 50,000 hours of hand embroidery. When the cape was first shown in 2012, the model made it only halfway down the runway before the lights had to be turned off and the show stopped so that she could remove the cape and return backstage. Rihanna successfully made her grand entrance at the Met Gala ~ with the help of 3 assistants to manage the garment's weight.
The exhibition at the Bowers Museum includes over 40 mannequins, dressed head to toe in designs by Guo Pei. When she conceptualizes a design, she really considers the entire effect including headpieces, jewelry and shoes. She says, “These are not pieces of my clothing. I make clothing, but in these galleries, you will find my art.”
Guo Pei is known for her exquisite craftsmanship and blending of traditional Chinese techniques such as silk and metallic thread embroidery, painting and pleating with contemporary Western style. Her designs are innovative, intricate and inspiring. It is obvious that she is a perfectionist and a passionate artist.
"Garden of Soul" couture collection, Fall 2015
Detail of brass flowers, 24K gold thread embroidery and silk pleating
"Encounter" couture collection, FW 2015-2016
Detail of silver thread embroidery, fur and beaded fringe cuff.
This coat dress took 6,000 hours to make.
"1002 Nights" couture collection, FW 2009-2010
Detail of silver thread embroidery and pearl beads.
"Legend" couture collection, SS 2017
Detail of metal strips and Swarovski crystals.
In late 2015, Guo Pei was invited to be a Guest Member of the prestigious Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. She made her Paris Haute Couture debut in January 2016, unveiling her “Courtyard” collection to critical acclaim. In the same year, she was also named one of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People and one of the Business of Fashion's 500 most influential people shaping the global fashion industry.
"Legend of the Dragon" couture collection, SS 2012
The Bowers Museum has extended the exhibition until July 21, 2019 so if you are in SoCal, make plans to go. I would consider this a must-see exhibition for fashion designers and fashion lovers. Information on the museum and gallery hours can be found on their website.