Wednesday, January 3, 2018


Christened "Magnificent Gold," Rihanna's 2015 MET Gala gown, brimming with a 16 foot silken yellow train, exquisite embroidery and thick fur trim stirs a social media sandstorm, prompting memes from "Big Bird" to "poured omelet." Originally created for a 2010 runway collection, the ornate ensemble is the product of 20 months and 50,000 hours at the hand of a solitary artisan. For many, this and the "Danjin" ballgown--a centerpiece at the MET Museum's 2015 Costume Institute exhibit China Through the Looking Glass--is a first encounter with the designer Guo Pei. A year later (2016), the Beijing based couturier becomes the first Chinese member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. Continuing the momentum in 2017, 40 of Pei's most impressive couture creations, associated footwear and accessories are on display in her first solo exhibition, Guo Pei: Couture Beyond. Keep reading for a look inside the exhibit at SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film in Atlanta...

Two ensembles from An Amazing Journey in a Childhood Dream collection (2008) [more]

Answering the curiosity of a childhood that was devoid of color and guided by a 'sartorial sobriety' imposed by the Cultural Revolution, Guo Pei's artistry magnifies extravagance with unrestrained intricacy and opulent adornment. Abundant in each garment are historic undertones molded into meticulous detailing--a harmonious balance of style and symbolism. Contrary to most fashion exhibits--where clear standouts steal the spotlight--each piece in this cautiously curated collection is equally remarkable, complete with a unique story. Interestingly enough, one of Pei's exhibit favorites--a robe-like white jacket with fur and feather trim--is seemingly the least spectacular. However--up close--the coat is covered in complex embroidery done in a gold metal thread that was cut and restarted every seven stitches! 

Impressive couture piece from An Amazing Journey in a Childhood Dream collection (2008)

A mushroom-like ensemble from Guo Pei's An Amazing Journey in a Childhood Dream collection (2008) opens the exhibit. Ambient lighting entertains hints of romance and fosters an ideal atmosphere to showcase endless spits of sparkle. Supporting the sartorial marvels is an equally formidable effort by exhibit curator Rafael Gomes. Custom Aloof 6000 mannequins by Bonaveri seamlessly sustain the full weight of each gorgeous garment while strategically placed mirrors highlight the voluminous facets of every piece. Gold chandeliers and rotating display pedestals complete the assemblage that has been 2 years in the making. 

Platform shoes by the true definition!

Where some couturiers strive to trail-blaze with a modern approach to design, Guo Pei's devotion to the flawless execution of traditional technique is reflected in the delicate detail of her creations and the technical expertise of the 500 artisans she employs. On display, Legend of the Dragon #6 (2012)--ripe with hundreds of hand-crafted pink and red roses--is the product of meticulous hand-painted perfection and nearly-lost craft. Blue and Porcelain--also exhibited at the MET's China Through the Looking Glass, features sophisticated draping and multiple forms of embroidery. Complex su xiu and gong xiu embroidery is a unique feature of many pieces. 

"Danjin" ballgown from the Samsara collection  (2006)

Guo Pei: Couture Beyond presents the rare opportunity to face off with gems from the exquisite portfolio of one of China's most celebrated couturiers. Personally, the trip to Atlanta was worth the chance to admire the garments up close; 2D photos can't quite convey the magnificence of the 3D experience. The remarkable relics remain on view until March 4, 2018. An abbreviated complimentary exhibit is also on view through March 4th at SCAD's Pei Ling Chan Gallery in Savannah, Georgia. Highly Recommended!

Intricate embroidery + detailed handiwork = 50,000 man hours to create

"Blue & Porcelain" dress with a peony in the center; design inspired by the Ming Dynasty-featured in the MET's China Through the Looking Glass 

Dresses in the "Blue & Porcelain" motif, part of the One Thousand and Two Nights collection (2010)

Gown from Guo Pei's Legend of the Dragon collection (2012)

Detail view of an ornate matching bracer; Owning a piece of Guo Pei's handiwork typically will set you back anywhere from $75,000 to $300,000!

Front view of "Magnificent Gold" ensemble from One Thousand and Two Nights collection (2010)

Worn by Rihanna at the 2015 MET Museum's Costume Institute Gala; 55 pounds of silk + fur and ~20 months to complete!

Gown from Guo Pei's Legend of the Dragon collection (2012) inspired by the phoenix with a delicate butterfly symbolizing young love

Beaded dragons; Sequins + Pearls 

Installation view

Silk mesh gown worn by Carmen Dell'Orefice in Guo Pei's One Thousand and Two Nights runway show (S/S 2010)

Back view of intricate fur trimmed ensemble

Detail view of gown from the Legend of the Dragon collection (2012) -- More 3D than you would imagine!

Ornate and intricate ornamentation; representative of the terra cotta roofing in China

White gown from the Encounter collection (F/W 2016)

Deep Cuts + detail; dress from the Encounter collection (F/W 2016)

From Guo Pei's Legend of the Dragon collection (2012)

Two pieces from the Encounter collection (F/W 2016); Left jacket with complex embroidery is one of Guo Pei's favorite pieces in the show

Guopei Courtyard (S/S 2016) collection

The mirrors help showcase the beauty of the dresses from all angles

Garden of the Soul (2015)

"There is a kingdom in a flower; a wisdom in a leaf" [source]

Dresses from the Garden of Soul collection (2015) embellished with Swarovski beads, brass florets, embroidered silk, sequins and hand painting

Installation view of ensembles from the Garden of Soul collection (2015)

Introductory wall, Guo Pei: Couture Beyond

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