Chinese Couturier Guo Pei Ready to Take on Paris
Guo Pei has only produced four haute couture collections in the last nine years, but each garment was so lavishly embellished and exquisitely hand-crafted that it has firmly established the petite designer as one who dares to dream big and creates outfits that are closer to sculptural art works. Now, Guo Pei has a new dream: a Paris base. Over the coming months, the designer is planning to launch a new eponymous brand, which will be exclusively available in the French fashion capital. She is setting up an atelier-cum-studio in Paris, near Avenue Montaigne, where Christian Dior started his couture house and others have followed.
“We’re going to start small with a few petite-mains, and build the atelier step by step. I’m planning on having a couple of our top craftsmen from China work there too, so they can learn from each other,” says Guo Pei, “For haute couture, the center of the world remains Paris. This atelier is my way of paying respect to this long tradition of couture in Paris, and also a way to learn more from it. We have a great experience in craftsmanship in China; now we want to work with French craftsmen and learn new techniques from them.” Guo Pei plans to unveil her first couture collection during Haute Couture Week in July. “There will be no boutique for now, just the atelier that will also work as a private showroom where we can present some trunk shows to our customers. And if my Chinese customers want the new label, Guo Pei, they will have to come to Paris,” she quips.
Born in Beijing in 1967 at the start of the Cultural Revolution, Guo Pei studied fashion at Beijing Second Light Industry School at a time when millions of Chinese were still wearing the universal Mao shirt every day. After graduating in 1986, she started designing children’s clothing, before moving on to a privately-owned women’s clothing company, Beijing Tian Ma Garments & Accessories Co. In 1997, she took the plunge and opened Rose Studio with her husband, now the CEO of the company. At the time, she recalls, finding skilled embroiderers was a difficult feat as so much savoir-faire had been lost during the Cultural Revolution, but today her atelier in the outskirts of Beijing has more than 450 employees, working on everything from embroideries and tassels to handmade flowers and other trimmings, as well as creating bespoke shoes and handbags.
While she is most famous for her no-expense-spared couture presentations with lengthy runway productions that create memorable visuals, the designer’s bread and butter operation remains her more subdued, one-of-a-kind creations that are done for a private clientele who appreciate her use of the finest silks and attention to finishing.
Over the last decade, she’s also become a household name in China as she has dressed the hosts of the annual talent showcase, the CCTV Spring Festival Gala, watched by a large proportion of China’s population and many overseas. One year she designed a memorable dress for China’s most famous folk singer Song Zuying that matched the spring theme of the show: it literally bloomed during the performance, transforming from white to a multitude of colors.
To date, Guo Pei’s designs have been worn by stars like Zhang Ziyi, Fan Bingbing and Li Bingbing, who appreciate her contemporary take on the cheongsam. And whether embracing the aesthetics of blue and white porcelain or Chinese ink printing, her couture collections are artworks that showcase her deep love for Chinese traditional cultures, often recalling aspects of Imperial China.
For the last two years, the designer has been primarily focusing on launching a new semi-couture line, Guo Pei Xi, after she opened her first boutique at 22 on the Bund in Shanghai, catering to the fast-growing ranks of upper middle-class Chinese brides.
As first published on BLOUINARTINFO.com