Juxtapoz Magazine – Guo Pei: Couture Fantasy


Jill D’Alesssandro, Curator of Costume and Textiles at the Fantastic Arts Museums and creator of a new e book on Guo Pei, absolutely acclaims the magnificence of the “Rhianna” robe, but reminds me that it signifies just a person admittedly shiny jewel in the designer’s crown. The good news is, audiences will have an prospect this spring to sample some of Guo’s sumptuous creations at the Legion of Honor, celebrating the cultures of East and West.      

Gwynned Vitello: Guo Pei is acclaimed as China’s 1st couturier, but prior to we start off, let’s determine couture.
Jill D’Alessandro: Couture refers to the development of distinctive, produced to get fashions for a distinct shopper. Garments are designed from higher-excellent fabrics and sewn with excessive attention to depth and complete, normally employing hand-executed procedures.

How lengthy did it consider to orchestrate these a beautiful, significant exhibition, and how prolonged have you been learning her perform?
I 1st fulfilled Guo Pei in 2013 or 2014 when she and her partner, Jack Tsao, have been checking out museums across the US. Located on the Pacific Rim, I believe the de Youthful was 1 of the initially. We connected instantly and she gave me DVDs of her Beijing runway displays that I shared with my colleagues. We were being so excited about her work, and talked about the likelihood of an exhibition. Given that then, I have followed her career—from By means of the Hunting Glass at the Satisfied, to her previous display Guo Pei: Couture Further than at the SCAD FASH Museum of Trend and Movie. It was when Tom Campbell became director of the High-quality Arts Museums that this came to fruition, and in January, 2019, Guo and Jack visited again and we commenced do the job. Guo remembered our initial meeting—especially due to the fact I experienced taken her into our costume storage to clearly show her the breathtaking Christian Dior 1939 ball gown, Junon. 


Tell us about her childhood and the pretty much fairytale path that led to her vocation.
Guo Pei has lived a remarkable existence, spanning the privations of China’s Cultural Revolution to the heights of international trend, when, in 2016, she grew to become a guest member of the Chambre Syndicale de Haute Couture. Her father was a platoon leader and her dad and mom lived an austere way of life, based on Maoist principles. Guo’s mother is lawfully blind, so Guo realized to sew at two many years previous in order to enable out, but observed solace and inspiration in her maternal grandmother, who was brought up throughout the twilight of China’s past imperial period. For the duration of the Cultural Revolution, Guo’s grandmother was forced to ruin all own possessions, which include clothes, jewellery and pictures. Nonetheless she would regale the potential designer with tales of lovely silken robes, tales that proceed to incite Guo’s vivid imagination. 

It’s fascinating that Legion of Honor’s collections will be phase sets for her artwork. How will the clearly show be displayed? 
Downstairs, wherever the exhibition begins, it follows a classic layout with every gallery dedicated to one or two of Guo Pei’s most vital collections from Beijing and Paris. These galleries are structured thematically and loosely chronologically, analyzing significant themes in her  work—China’s imperial earlier, the grandeur of European court docket ife, architecture, the botanical world and reincarnation. The upstairs are conceived as an intervention, with personal creations or groupings of Guo Pei’s models all over eleven of the long term collection galleries, aiming to encourage a transcultural dialogue via a juxtaposition of her styles and the artwork in our long term collection.


How did you decide on the ensembles to open up the clearly show? Were being you guided by her favorite themes, as nicely as your long lasting collections?
The downstairs opens with her 2007 collection, An Astounding Journey of a Childhood Aspiration, which was in the beginning introduced in Beijing and sets the stage for the exhibition. Designed when Guo was pregnant, she materialized the dreams of a tiny woman whose dolls came to lifestyle. It commenced with a younger female falling asleep in a canopied bed large over the runway. As she dreamed, models pranced below her in pastel confections made of tightly folded silk, reminiscent of the origami toys Guo designed as a boy or girl. The constructions were being paired with separates embellished with raised metallic thread embroidery, an homage to the jeweled costumes donned by Spanish matadors. 

Upstairs, Guo and I chose ensembles responding to the Museum’s lasting collections. Shown inside of the neoclassical architecture of the Legion, amid our selection of European artwork, her patterns mirror on the loaded historical ties amongst China and the West. For instance, in the gilded French reception place, the Salon Dore, the Phoenix robe from her Legend of the Dragon assortment is introduced as visitor of honor. The majestic, gold-embroidered Dajing (Superb Gold) ensemble from the Samsara (Lifecycle) assortment will take center phase among performs of Baroque and Rococo. Gowns from the Legends collection, encouraged by the cathedral at St. Gallen, Switzerland, are located between saint icons and Madonna figures in the Medieval gallery. In the French and British paintings and Ornamental Arts galleries, parts from the Experience and Courtyard collections spotlight the cultural nature of Guo Pei’s designs. In Gallery 1, a unique presentation juxtaposes our collections of Chinese export artwork and European chinoiserie, which include tapestry, vases and a tea established with the “Porcelain” costume from the One Thousand and Two Nights assortment.

There are so quite a few themes to investigate, like how she incorporates Chinese theater.

The influence of drama and film on Guo Pei’s operate is deeply rooted. Theater was 1 of couple of art sorts that survived throughout the Cultural Revolution—Mao Zedong’s wife was an actress! So, by theater, elaborate costume traditions survived throughout the Revolution. For Guo Pei, a pivotal instant occurred as a pupil at the Beijing Second Light Business School. Immediately after asking her professor how to develop a entire skirt she had spotted in a Western film, she was sent to the Beijing People’s Art Theater. There, workers confirmed her how to make a huge pannier out of bamboo. For that reason, numerous of her early styles were influenced by dramas and videos, and she also has built for theater and opera. Most ensembles in the clearly show, made for runway shows, had been conceived as theater, and she normally collaborates with directors on the staging.

In a conversation with director of exhibition structure, Alexander Stein, Guo Pei shared the relevance of shadow and light-weight in her get the job done, sharing tales about a lamp she experienced as a child and earning references to Chinese shadow puppet theater. Sparking Alejandro’s creativeness, he proceeded to design the exhibition all-around puppet theater, which captures the drama and mystery of Guo’s do the job.


And embroidery is these types of a important element in her work.
Opulent embroidery is a signature of Gao’s, the place she states she expresses herself best. For her, embroidery is individual. As that younger lady developing up all through the Cultural Revolution, her solace and inspiration arrived from her grandmother, whose upbringing all through the twilight of the Qing dynasty (1644-1912) starkly contrasted Guo’s. The stories of elaborate, embroidered robes enthralled the long run couturier. As a young designer working for brand name-identify corporations, she longed to design embroidered clothes, but the craft ceased remaining taught by the 1930s, and richly embroidered apparel, forbidden through the revolution, had not regained recognition. Immediately after setting up her studio in the late 1990s, Guo was determined to find out artisans who could execute fantastic embroidery. Right now she employs 450 craftspeople, and 300 are embroiderers. Over the decades, she and her workforce made their personal interpretation of traditional stitches, fused with Indian, European and Russian designs. “I primarily treatment about my artisans, patternmakers and embroidery artisans,” Gao states, “because they are the men and women who assisted me recognize my dream.”

There are so lots of botanical and floral designs that I experience like they are muses for her.
I imagine it is incredibly telling that she named her atelier Rose Studio, right after her most loved bouquets. For Guo, flowers express pleasure, pleasure and enjoyment. In Chinese literature, they have symbolic meanings and are related with womanhood, so her interpretation of the botanical entire world is deeply particular and culturally symbolic. The exhibition explores this as a result of Back garden of Soul, inspired by flowers in blossom, an emblem of prosperity, and Elysium, where by she compares the afterlife and the regenerative nature of plant root construction as a result of the generation of elaborate ensembles produced out of the organic fibers of bamboo and raffia. 

The Alternate Universe is also incredibly symbolic, a purely natural way to end the demonstrate
In Alternate Universe, Guo explores the existence of lifetime following demise. In this fantasy, Guo fuses many references, from parables of Aesop’s fables, the silhouettes of late seventeenth and eighteenth century dress, eccelsiastical vestments and Salvador Dalí’s jewellery styles with the Taoist basic principle of reincarnation. The runway presentation opened with two types sporting the similar dress, symbolizing two worlds in one place. The animal kingdom, particularly the monkey, is portrayed throughout the collection, superbly rendered in embroidery. In this article, Guo cautions her viewers to show respect for animals, “Our soul may possibly transmigrate or reincarnate concerning lifeforms, so if now we do not treatment about a certain animal, in the upcoming daily life we may grow to be this animal, like a chicken or monkey.” Organizing this exhibition during Covid gave the selection further importance. In our discussions, Guo spoke about her perception in reincarnation, and not to dread demise at this time when persons have misplaced their cherished ones. 


Soon after so significantly research for your guide, as perfectly as the impending exhibition, what do you think most defines her as an artist? 
In one particular of our conversations, Guo Pei advised me that her earliest reminiscences have experienced the most impact. When you look at her operate, you see myriad influences from her early childhood—from studying to sew at an early age, attending the theater with her family members, her grandmother’s tales about lovely, embroidered butterflies on outfits, to generating her have toys out of origami and getting walks in Ritan Park, the place she created a love of both equally mother nature and architecture. 

Guo Pei: Couture Fantasy will be on perspective at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco from April 16–September 5, 2022


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