Juxtapoz Magazine – Guo Pei: Couture Fantasy


Jill D’Alesssandro, Curator of Costume and Textiles at the High-quality Arts Museums and creator of a new book on Guo Pei, totally acclaims the magnificence of the “Rhianna” gown, but reminds me that it signifies just one particular admittedly shiny jewel in the designer’s crown. Thankfully, 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 initially couturier, but in advance of we get started, let us define couture.
Jill D’Alessandro: Couture refers to the generation of special, created to get fashions for a particular consumer. Garments are designed from substantial-excellent fabrics and sewn with intense interest to detail and complete, normally applying hand-executed approaches.

How long did it take to orchestrate these a lovely, big exhibition, and how long have you been learning her operate?
I 1st met Guo Pei in 2013 or 2014 when she and her partner, Jack Tsao, were viewing museums across the US. Positioned on the Pacific Rim, I imagine the de Young was a person of the initial. We connected instantly and she gave me DVDs of her Beijing runway presentations that I shared with my colleagues. We were being so excited about her do the job, and mentioned the likelihood of an exhibition. Given that then, I have followed her career—from By means of the Seeking Glass at the Achieved, to her preceding display Guo Pei: Couture Beyond at the SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion and Movie. It was when Tom Campbell became director of the High-quality Arts Museums that this arrived to fruition, and in January, 2019, Guo and Jack frequented yet again and we commenced function. Guo remembered our initially meeting—especially due to the fact I experienced taken her into our costume storage to demonstrate her the breathtaking Christian Dior 1939 ball gown, Junon. 


Convey to us about her childhood and the almost fairytale route that led to her job.
Guo Pei has lived a remarkable lifestyle, spanning the privations of China’s Cultural Revolution to the heights of intercontinental fashion, when, in 2016, she grew to become a visitor member of the Chambre Syndicale de Haute Couture. Her father was a platoon leader and her mom and dad lived an austere way of living, primarily based on Maoist rules. Guo’s mother is legally blind, so Guo figured out to sew at two decades outdated in buy to enable out, but identified solace and inspiration in her maternal grandmother, who was introduced up for the duration of the twilight of China’s previous imperial period. During the Cultural Revolution, Guo’s grandmother was compelled to damage all personalized possessions, like clothes, jewellery and photographs. Yet she would regale the potential designer with stories of lovely silken robes, stories that go on to incite Guo’s vivid imagination. 

It is remarkable that Legion of Honor’s collections will be phase sets for her art. How will the present be shown? 
Downstairs, where by the exhibition starts, it follows a traditional format with every single gallery dedicated to one particular or two of Guo Pei’s most significant collections from Beijing and Paris. These galleries are arranged thematically and loosely chronologically, examining big themes in her  work—China’s imperial earlier, the grandeur of European court ife, architecture, the botanical entire world and reincarnation. The upstairs are conceived as an intervention, with person creations or groupings of Guo Pei’s types throughout eleven of the permanent selection galleries, aiming to really encourage a transcultural dialogue by way of a juxtaposition of her designs and the artwork in our long-lasting collection.


How did you decide on the ensembles to open up the exhibit? Had been you guided by her favourite themes, as well as your long term collections?
The downstairs opens with her 2007 selection, An Incredible Journey of a Childhood Dream, which was at first introduced in Beijing and sets the phase for the exhibition. Created when Guo was expecting, she materialized the goals of a tiny woman whose dolls came to lifestyle. It started with a young woman slipping asleep in a canopied bed substantial previously mentioned the runway. As she dreamed, styles pranced underneath her in pastel confections produced of tightly folded silk, reminiscent of the origami toys Guo made as a kid. The constructions have been 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 everlasting collections. Shown in just the neoclassical architecture of the Legion, amid our selection of European art, her designs reflect on the loaded historical ties involving China and the West. For case in point, in the gilded French reception area, the Salon Dore, the Phoenix gown from her Legend of the Dragon collection is offered as visitor of honor. The majestic, gold-embroidered Dajing (Superb Gold) ensemble from the Samsara (Lifecycle) collection requires heart phase between is effective of Baroque and Rococo. Gowns from the Legends selection, influenced by the cathedral at St. Gallen, Switzerland, are positioned between saint icons and Madonna figures in the Medieval gallery. In the French and British paintings and Attractive Arts galleries, parts from the Face and Courtyard collections spotlight the cultural mother nature of Guo Pei’s types. In Gallery A single, a exclusive presentation juxtaposes our collections of Chinese export art and European chinoiserie, which includes tapestry, vases and a tea established with the “Porcelain” dress from the Just one Thousand and Two Nights collection.

There are so lots of themes to investigate, like how she incorporates Chinese theater.

The affect of drama and movie on Guo Pei’s do the job is deeply rooted. Theater was one particular of several artwork kinds that survived throughout the Cultural Revolution—Mao Zedong’s wife was an actress! So, via theater, elaborate costume traditions survived for the duration of the Revolution. For Guo Pei, a pivotal minute transpired as a student at the Beijing Second Gentle Sector College. Following asking her professor how to build a whole skirt she experienced noticed in a Western movie, she was despatched to the Beijing People’s Art Theater. There, team showed her how to make a wide pannier out of bamboo. Consequently, quite a few of her early styles were being influenced by dramas and motion pictures, and she also has designed for theater and opera. Most ensembles in the exhibit, developed for runway shows, were conceived as theater, and she usually collaborates with directors on the staging.

In a conversation with director of exhibition style, Alexander Stein, Guo Pei shared the great importance of shadow and light-weight in her function, sharing tales about a lamp she had as a little one and making references to Chinese shadow puppet theater. Sparking Alejandro’s creativeness, he proceeded to layout the exhibition about puppet theater, which captures the drama and secret of Guo’s function.


And embroidery is these types of a crucial aspect in her work.
Opulent embroidery is a signature of Gao’s, where by she states she expresses herself ideal. For her, embroidery is particular. As that young female expanding up for the duration of the Cultural Revolution, her solace and inspiration came from her grandmother, whose upbringing for the duration of the twilight of the Qing dynasty (1644-1912) starkly contrasted Guo’s. The tales of elaborate, embroidered robes enthralled the long run couturier. As a youthful designer working for model-identify corporations, she longed to layout embroidered garments, but the craft ceased being taught by the 1930s, and richly embroidered clothes, forbidden all through the revolution, had not regained level of popularity. Right after establishing her studio in the late 1990s, Guo was identified to learn artisans who could execute great embroidery. These days she employs 450 craftspeople, and 300 are embroiderers. About the decades, she and her staff formulated their own interpretation of traditional stitches, fused with Indian, European and Russian types. “I specially care about my artisans, patternmakers and embroidery artisans,” Gao suggests, “because they are the persons who served me understand my desire.”

There are so many botanical and floral designs that I experience like they are muses for her.
I feel it is very telling that she named her atelier Rose Studio, soon after her most loved bouquets. For Guo, bouquets express joy, joy and satisfaction. In Chinese literature, they have symbolic meanings and are linked with womanhood, so her interpretation of the botanical planet is deeply own and culturally symbolic. The exhibition explores this by way of Backyard garden of Soul, influenced by flowers in blossom, an emblem of prosperity, and Elysium, where she compares the afterlife and the regenerative nature of plant root composition by the creation of elaborate ensembles manufactured out of the organic fibers of bamboo and raffia. 

The Alternate Universe is also pretty symbolic, a purely natural way to stop the present
In Alternate Universe, Guo explores the existence of everyday living following demise. In this fantasy, Guo fuses multiple references, from parables of Aesop’s fables, the silhouettes of late seventeenth and eighteenth century costume, eccelsiastical vestments and Salvador Dalí’s jewelry types with the Taoist theory of reincarnation. The runway presentation opened with two models carrying the identical gown, symbolizing two worlds in a person room. The animal kingdom, particularly the monkey, is portrayed during the assortment, wonderfully rendered in embroidery. Right here, Guo cautions her viewers to exhibit respect for animals, “Our soul could possibly transmigrate or reincarnate amongst lifeforms, so if right now we really do not care about a particular animal, in the upcoming everyday living we may develop into this animal, like a chicken or monkey.” Organizing this exhibition throughout Covid gave the selection deeper importance. In our discussions, Guo spoke about her perception in reincarnation, and not to anxiety demise at this time when men and women have misplaced their beloved kinds. 


Immediately after so much analysis for your guide, as well as the approaching exhibition, what do you consider most defines her as an artist? 
In a single of our discussions, Guo Pei informed me that her earliest recollections have had the most impact. When you glance at her work, you see myriad influences from her early childhood—from discovering to sew at an early age, attending the theater with her household, her grandmother’s tales about stunning, embroidered butterflies on clothing, to producing her personal toys out of origami and having walks in Ritan Park, wherever she developed a really like of both equally mother nature and architecture. 

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


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