Guo Pei makes art from fashion, exemplifying the rise of Chinese couture


By Cintra Wilson

Distinctive to The Examiner

The Legion of Honor is internet hosting a lavish retrospective of the couture designer Guo Pei — additional than 75 parts chosen from the runways of Paris and Beijing around the past two a long time. The perform is otherworldly and stunning — every single piece signifies basically thousands of hrs of painstaking, qualified sartorial artistry.

If you’ve at any time experienced doubts about whether style could be viewed as art, this is the present that will encourage you it can. The treasures are also showcased in the shockingly great environment of the Legion of Honor’s neoclassical architecture and its a variety of art-loaded rooms.

Pei is most likely most effective known for dressing Rihanna for the 2015 Fulfilled Gala in a canary yellow gown with a teach that expected 3 people to maneuver (a dress that took two several years and 50,000 hrs to build).

In 2016, she turned the next Chinese-born-and-educated designer to be inducted into the French vogue industry’s Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture that yr, she also was named a person of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential Persons.

Pei, 55, hails from Beijing, exactly where she used her early childhood under the limitations of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. Taught to sew by her mother, she rebelled towards the required “Mao suit” clothes limits and dared to put on oversize attire.

Her grandmother was a repository of memory from China’s opulent, imperial earlier and explained to younger Pei of amazing silken gowns, lavishly adorned with classic embroidery.

When Mao died and Deng Xiaoping took around as paramount chief of China in 1978, Pei was given the prospect to use to college and was approved into a governing administration vogue plan.

Immediately after graduating with a degree in manner, she labored for one particular of China’s 1st branded clothing manufacturers. She was profitable there, but left to commence her have design dwelling and atelier, named Rose Studio, using the services of 25 workforce. Aspect of her strategy was to revive the standard dressmaking competencies misplaced all through the Cultural Revolution.

As Pei advised Jill D’Alessandro, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s curator in charge of costume and textile arts: “I desired my assortment to explain reincarnation of not only human existence, from lifestyle to loss of life, but also of my lifestyle. … Throughout the Cultural Revolution, they ruined their personal society, but my technology located it once more.”

Her Rose Studio now employs nearly 500 people today, capable of the variety of conventional needlework and other varieties of tailoring wizardry and know-how usually reserved for the papacy or royal weddings.

Pei’s eyesight advanced right after recurrent excursions to Europe, in which she was exposed to Western artwork, architecture and superior manner. The do the job showcased in this exhibition is an outrageous and sublime fusion of her Chinese heritage blended with the elaborate fashions of the French court, and even spiritual vestments — creations ideal for a Eurasian incarnation of the goddess Quan Yin, if she have been off to Self-importance Fair’s Oscar social gathering, or Lady Gaga, if she had been also the infallible Term of God.

“Faith, desires, devotion and love” are what Pei claims are her motivators, in accordance to a recorded video information from the artist to the museum. (Pei herself was however not able to journey to The Metropolis due to COVID restrictions.) She is also explicitly motivated by Imperial China, European court everyday living, theater, Chinese export artwork and the earth of botany. The Catholic Church and its regalia has naturally created rather an impression on her as effectively, as witnessed by an enormous golden gown replete with orphreys that would glance suitable at house on the Toddler of Prague.

To walk through her couture collections is to gasp at impossibly opulent, spectacular feats of time and specialist depth work there are miles of brocade and golden thread splashed about collars and neckpieces, bodices and huge trains — veritable, wearable Faberge eggs. Perfectly, theoretically wearable: “I use the body weight of the clothing, the peak of the shoes, and the unwieldiness of the gown to characterize the inner toughness and self esteem of a lady,” reads a Pei quote on one particular of the museum walls. A person conjoined pair of robes is basically manufactured to be worn by two girls at when (symbolizing the coexistence of two worlds in a single spot).

There is also a playfulness and humor at operate in Pei’s creations that is the two coquettish and pretty. There are gowns that on leading resemble what Marie Antoinette may possibly wear to go bullfighting, but with tiered and layered silk miniskirts that give off a sort of flapper/1960s go-go dancer silhouette.

Though learning from costume makers how to framework hoop skirts, Pei uncovered a really like for bamboo and basketry, which is employed in numerous parts that make shorter attire look like the form of golden lampshades you’d obtain at the sultan of Brunei’s home.

In the L’Architecture selection — from Pei’s tumble/winter season 2018 runway selection at the Cité de l’Architecture in Paris — there are midi-length gowns encrusted with beadwork detailing Gothic churches, and attire developed from translucent panels, embroidered with road scenes.

An additional home has pieces from East Palace, Pei’s spring/summer months 2019 assortment, which was motivated by up to date takes on what Pei imagined gals donning in the Forbidden Town during the Qing dynasty (1644-1912). Materials incorporating mother of pearl had been formulated for her recognizably Chinese silhouettes are specified bold new cutaways and ridiculously included beadwork.

In addition to its very own committed gallery, Pei’s creations are also studded throughout the key floor of the museum, producing exceptional juxtapositions among her patterns and artworks from Italy and France established in the 17th and 18th centuries and spiritual pieces from the Renaissance.

This exhibit is a will have to-see working experience for fashionistas and non-fashionistas alike. Pei is a couture mastermind, and her do the job is China’s declaration that it, too, has gained a essential area on the world’s vogue runways.


“Guo Pei: Couture Fantasy”

Where by: Legion of Honor, 100 34th Ave., S.F.

When: 9:30 a.m.-5:15 p.m., Tuesdays-Sundays, as a result of Sept. 5

Tickets: $15 youth, $21 student, $27 senior, $30 grownup

Call: (415) 750-3600,

Guo Pei’s Elysium dress from her spring-summer 2018 collection. (Photograph by Lian Xu, Courtesy Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco)

Guo Pei’s Elysium dress from her spring-summer months 2018 selection. (Photograph by Lian Xu, Courtesy Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco)


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