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Guo Pei at The Arts Décoratifs of Paris: A dreamy encounter between East and West


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Guo Pei, also known as the oriental Alexander Mc Queen, made an indelible mark in Paris during the French High Couture Week. The Chinese designer delivered an exceptional exhibition of thirty astounding dresses, authentic works of art, in the respected setting of the Arts Décoratifs at The Louvre. The show should allow Guo Pei to gain a much well earned recognition across the western world. This distinctive move also reflects Pei’s will to settle in Paris within the closed circle of the great couture houses through notably the opening of a workshop and the funding of a production unit. Saying this exhibition certifies her genius and merit to carry out the endeavor is an understatement.


Beyond the 20 years of experience and passion distinctive to Pei’s background, the exhibition is also a reflection of true Chinese ancestral expertise that defies current trends and beliefs. Indeed, Guo Pei can take pride in perpetuating an embroiding and painting tradition that goes back thousands of years, throughout the Medieval Chinese Empire, making her the modern messenger of her culture’s most ancient treasures.


The materials used are at the top of the range, svarowsky crystals, Chinese silk, authentic pearls and fur, golden hair-pieces engraved with precious gems, natural tints. The precision in the embroidery work and the overall cuts are utterly divine. The influences are rich and complex: the ancestral Asian world is rediscovered with a modern surrealist twist and given a contemporary allure.


The thirty dresses showcased include the golden yellow gown worn by Rihanna at the Met Gala earlier this May. The dress had been the topic of much fan-created debate growing rapidly viral on Twitter and Instagram. It took Guo Pei two years to hand make the gown in question. However, the gown that dressed the diva seems like a trivial element when blended with the other Chinese couture creations. The collection also includes some pieces seen worn at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

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There are very few other events that can grabble such a combination of abundance, boldness, precision and craft. The only two I could think of oddly, are British: Mc Queen’s Savage Beauty exhibit and the Crown Jewels at London’s Historic Royal Palace. There is furthermore something in Guo Pei’s creations that isn’t inherent to this world, something imbued with Asian touches reminiscent of the mysticism of the exotic Geishas, but also with other numerous facets that seem unreachable or irreconcilable with the terrestrial world.


It is something extreme, comparable to the urge to exceed limits, to transcend… Perhaps this is natural for an artist who started creating in a country at a time where design itself didn’t mean anything. In 1986, when Guo graduated the people of the republic of China didn’t care if clothes were well designed or not, TV hosts, artists and performers wore simple everyday clothes. Ironically, today Guo Pei’s work inspires the most exuberant millennial artists, including Rihanna, Lady Gaga, but also Chinese actresses Song Zuying and Zhang Ziyi, thereby proving her ability to mix conservatism with modernity at both ends of the world.