You may not know Guo Pei but you have seen her work. The stunning bird yellow cape Rihanna wore at the 2015 Met Ball put Guo Pei on the world fashion stage however she had been creating absolutely breathtaking collections for years.
Guo Pei, born in 1967, launched her atelier in 1997. Her first show was in 2006 and since then has been dressing the elite of China and the world, drawing on her heritage for inspiration.
I had the chance to visit the Couture Beyond installation at the Vancouver Art Gallery here in Vancouver. I am not sure what I was expecting but it was way better than I could have ever imagined. Her work was so amazing that we went through twice. Each creation of clothing was accompanied by artistic adornments including bold headpieces, statement jewelry, awe-inspiring shoes, and elaborate purses. The intricate and ornate finishing of embroidery, beading, and hand painting create rich elaborate surfaces that glow. You needed time to take in each work and look front and back to take in all the details.
My favorite pieces were in the 2016 Encounters where the black and gold with deep shades of blue presented a more European classic couture look. The blue and gold gown in the 2012 Legend of the Dragon was simply amazing because it represented 50,000 hours of work to fashion the roses. The Legend 2017 Bride was actually creepy, with the top and bottom moving in different directions. You can watch the video here to see it.
And then there are the bewildering shoes, a specialty of Guo Pei. The Manchu flower pot or horse hoof platform shoes herald from the era 1835 to 1908. They kept the gowns off the ground and helped the Manchu women to appear taller and walk with a confident sway. I am amazed they could walk at all.
If you have a chance to see an exhibition of her work you must go. It will take your breath away.