The Story

Guo Pei: Spring/Summer 2019 Haute Couture Show in Paris 

From the Goddess Chang’e in the Moon Palace to the fairies in the Dragon Palace, the alluring and romantic mythology of the East boasts a long history. In the folklores of the East, a palace was not only home to the royal family, it was also the spiritual resting place for those who had cultivated and attained Tao, or underlying natural order of the Universe. In Chinese, the wordgong(meaning, palace) is both a symbol of supreme power and a synonym for the queen.  The palace is both a paradise on earth and a habitat for gods.  For 5,000 years of Chinese history, the palace had been the stage of timeless legends and scores of human dramas.  For her Spring/Summer 2019 haute couture show in Paris, Guo Pei will recount the stories of “Eastern Palaces” (donggong), using the finest of traditional Chinese craftsmanship incorporated with Western stylistic elements and contemporary technical innovation.


An Ethereal World Where Heaven and Earth Meet 

On January 23, 2019, Guo Pei will present her Spring/Summer 2019 haute couture collection at Palais de Tokyo in Paris. A rendition of the Hall of Supreme Harmony in Beijing’s Forbidden City, the dramatic and majestic recreation of the red columns within the Hall, are the backdrop for the show in Paris. This visual effect draws inspiration from the myths of the East, the red columns a metaphor for Heaven and Earth connected through celestial pillars. Palais de Tokyo will be transformed into a magnificent and elegant Eastern Palace, gleaming in imperial grandeur and Taoist mystery.

 Western Splendor Meets Eastern Zen 

In this collection, Guo Pei expresses Eastern cultural elements through Western textiles: twill woven with colorful metallic patent leather, mosaic-style sequins and prints. Highly textured fabrics bring to life the appeal of dazzling contemporary styles, while fabrics in free-flowing sky blue color or the sun-like pure gold reflects the vitality of nature.


Guo Pei worked with Jakob Schlaepfer’s workshop in designing some of the fabrics, resulting in a new aesthetic, merging Eastern and Western influences. For instance, the deep purples and bright reds of peony blossoms endearing to the Eastern color palettes are replaced by shades of chromatic gray. The iconic red and quintessential indigo characterizing the Eastern palatial designs are coated with a modernized gray metal layer.  The elegance of the East is fused with the grace of the West, resulting in a romantic exploration of colors.

The Rebirth of an Ancient Art 

Another highlight of the show is the art of mother-of-pearl inlay from Japan.  The method was originally derived from a technique used in Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) in China as a substitute for gold and silver foil silk. The artisans grinded mother-of-pearl to blanks of 0.1-0.2 mm each in thickness, and then cut them into threads to be woven into silk fabric.  The production process requires undivided attention to the last detail, in order to perfectly integrate the seductive iridescence of mother-of-pearl into the silk brocade and recreate the magical opulence of the Eastern Palace.


Staging an Eastern Drama 

The architectural elements of the Eastern palaces, with countless exotic treasures, is also an element in Guo’s creative inspiration: the upturned eaves on roof corners resemble flying birds and the dragon-shaped base which adorned the emperor’s desk.  This is a world where pottery is decorated with dragon and cloud patterns, where the lanterns are embellished with finely carved details. The aesthetics of the Eastern architecture and decorative arts blend with Western craftsmanship, presenting a modernized classicism. The traditional sartorial elements of the Eastern court garments, such as wide-sleeved robes, Mandarin collars with slanted opening and Japanese kimonos, along with other traditional garments such as aprons, trousers and culottes, are reinterpreted with a contemporary touch.


A Spiritual Journey to the East

In her nearly 30 years of design career, Guo Pei has been committed to celebrating Eastern aesthetics. Unsurprisingly, dragons remain one of the most important motifs in this collection. Taking on the slender form imagined in the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD), known for their power of metamorphoses, the five colors of the dragons--black, green, gold, silver and red—allude to the ancient Chinese philosophy of Five Elements and Yin/Yang.

 The designer also draws inspiration from ancient iconography: whimsical green dragons; mythical birds such Rosefinch (God of the South), three-legged Golden Bird (symbolizing the sun), and Phoenix (king of all birds); the basaltic pythons (embodying the God of the North); and mighty unicorns. Guo summons all the auspicious animals from Eastern folklores and recreates them as symbols of the future, blurring the boundary between human sphere and mythological realm.  In this magical world, one can fantasize the Magical Carp leaping across the Dragon Gate, while the Fairy Crane turns clouds and treads waves. Altogether, they conjure up a carefree picture of a spiritual paradise held in highest regard in the Eastern culture.  

The Craftsmanship of the Imperial Court 

Since ancient times, court art has represented the highest standard, as the imperial court was able to command the services of the best craftsmen.  Guo Pei’s new collection features her signature labor-intensive luxurious embroidery. Drawing from the embroidery techniques perfected by generations of the traditional court artisans, the designer also brings in different embroidery techniques such as gold-wiring, net-shaped embroidery and 3D padded embroidery to deliver refreshing, modern effects. 

In Guo’s collection, every piece of accessory is a delicate work of art.  The glamorous jewelry features a variety of dragon-shaped tassels and lanterns motifs, reviving traditional techniques such as kingfisher feather encrusted with precious gemstones and woven gold threads. Most of the shoes are made of same fabric used for the garments, which incorporates mother-of-pearl inlays and embroidery details. The imperial dragon patterns on the heels are influenced by the magnificently painted and carved columns of Eastern palatial architecture. The flamboyant, structured heels in gold color, with embossed dragons and curly grass grain, are inspired by the elements of ancient Chinese gardens and the legs of classical Chinese furniture, combining architectural style with wearable beauty.

 Guo Pei creates an “Eastern Palace” that is both a splendid imperial court of the East and a spiritual sanctuary of philosophy.  For Guo Pei, each couture show is a spiritual journey.  It transcends fame, material rewards and acclaim.  With this journey, she looks to transcend her own “self” and attain a state of contentment and perfection.


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