On July 8th, Guo Pei’s tenth Paris couture collection SAVANNAH, will be unveiled at Haute Couture Online. This marks a landmark moment in her Paris haute couture journey, which began in 2016 when she became the first native Chinese designer to be accepted as a guest member of La Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode (FHCM).
In China, the number ten carries a deep significance. The ancient Chinese classic Luxuriant Dew of the Spring and Autumn Annuls states: “Heaven, Earth, the yin and yang, and wood, fire, earth, metal and water, make nine; together with man, they make ten. Heaven’s number is with this made complete.”
This moment naturally causes us to cast our minds back over Guo Pei’s previous nine shows in Paris and the special relationship we have formed with the incomparable City of Light during this process. Below is an overview of these collections along with some of their notable highlights.
1. Spring/Summer 2016 Couture Collection: “Courtyard”
Guo Pei’s Paris couture debut came in January 2016 with her much anticipated and widely acclaimed “Courtyard” collection. After having come to international audience’s attention with Rihanna’s iconic Met Gala dress the year before, this Spring/Summer collection, which featured 43 pieces, was the first chance for a large audience outside of China to see the wide range and richness of her designs up close.
Hosted at the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts and set against a backdrop of an imperial Chinese courtyard, this collection featured the exquisite Chinese-inspired embroidery that Guo Pei was now famous for, displayed across a range of pieces. “I respect the Paris tradition that fashion can speak to everyone” she told one media outlet at the time.
2016 was also the same year Guo Pei was featured on Time magazine’s ‘The 100 Most Influential People’ list.
2. Autumn/Winter 2016/2017 Couture Collection: “Encounter”
Guo Pei’s second couture collection contained 29 pieces which reflected her faith in dreams, her musings on karma and her perception of time. Her exquisite handicraft made full use of special material and fabrics to create a surreal and dreamlike range of designs.
In accordance with her own custom, she also included a “grand finale” dress, which this time was a handmade design featuring hundreds of thousands of sequins and decorations that took 20,000 hours to complete.
3. Spring/Summer 2017 Couture Collection: “Legends”
In January 2017, Guo Pei unveiled 21 exquisite designs inspired by the beautiful murals at the Cathedral of Saint Gallen in Switzerland, which she had visited for the first time two years before. She spent a year working with top fabric studios in Switzerland to design a customized fabric for the collection, which hit the runway in the historic Conciergerie on the banks of the river Seine. The collection paid tribute to the venue with its opening design, a dress inspired by the memory of Marie Antoinette, created using luminous fabrics and intricate knotting techniques and named “Ghost”.
The success of this beautiful collection is featured in Pietra Brettkelly’s critically acclaimed documentary about Guo Pei, Yellow is Forbidden.
4. Autumn/Winter 2017/2018 Couture Collection: “Golden Age of Couture”
In terms of inspiration, Guo Pei went back to basics with “Golden Age of Couture”. At the time, she remarked: “For a long, I have been using my designs and my work to express my feelings, my dreams, and speak from my heart. This season, I decided to just focus on the clothing itself.” The 43 pieces here paid tribute to the high tide of haute couture, presenting pieces that were stripped of exaggeration and celebrated the innocence of an age before industrialisation and fast fashion.
However, don’t let this concept mislead you – “Golden Age of Couture” still included Guo Pei’s trademark embroidery and sophisticated craftsmanship, which, was developed hand in hand with Caroline Scheufele, Co-President and Artistic Director of Chopard, producing a dialogue between High Jewelry and couture, a brilliant array of complex constructions and layering that brought an illusional aspect to the pieces.
5. Spring/Summer 2018 Couture Collection: “Elysium”
Guo Pei’s fifth Paris runway show was unveiled at Le Cirque d’Hiver Bouglione on January 24th, 2018. For this 23-piece collection, Guo Pei focused on the theme of “life”, which was celebrated with designs created using naturally sourced fabrics and materials that were intricately decorated with natural gemstones and crystals.
The opening piece of “Elysium” was a unique skirt decorated with golden flowers and woven from bamboo sourced from China’s famous Yellow Mountain, which was made in collaboration with skilled craftsmen with more than 30 years’ experience working with this fabric. The collection was set against a fantastic paradise-themed backdrop that included a nearly 8-meter in diameter tree suspended over the stage with roots hand-made by famous French paper artist Charles Macaire and surrounded by intricate lifelike flowers.
6. Autumn/Winter 2018/2019 Couture Collection: “L’architecture”
As the title suggests, Guo Pei’s inspiration for the designs of this collection came from the overlap between fashion and architecture: “Garments are walking works of architecture, and clothing is the first arena of space for mankind,” she explained at the time. This theme was reflected in the outlines, materials and details of the collection’s pieces, which seamlessly integrated Gothic architectural features (pointed towers and arches, arched windows and buttresses) with classic Oriental techniques such as knot buttons and embroidery.
The collection, which was perfectly in sync with the venue where it was hosted (la Cité de l’Architecture & du Patrimoine), utilized Guo Pei’s hallmark technical excellency to emphasis a tone of rationality, rigor, romance and mystery.
7. Spring/Summer 2019 Couture Collection: “East Palace”
For her seventh Paris runway show, Guo Pei drew on China’s ancient folklore for inspiration. “East Palace” saw Paris’ Palais de Tokyo transformed into a rendition of the Forbidden City’s Hall of Supreme Harmony. This backdrop was the perfect place for Guo Pei to blend together Western splendor and Eastern zen, in a collection which explored the timeless legends and spiritual atmosphere of the Chinese palace.
One particularly memorable highlight from the collection was its use of mother-of-pearl inlay from Japan, derived via a method which itself came from a technique used in China’s Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD). The intricate process for producing this material involved artisans carefully grinding mother-of-pearl down to blanks of 0.1 – 0.2mm thickness before cutting them into threads and weaving them into silk fabric.
8. Autumn/Winter 2019/2020 Couture Collection: “Alternate Universe”
On July 3rd, 2019, Guo Pei presented her Autumn/Winter 2019/2020 Couture collection at the Beaux-Arts de Paris. Under the magnificent glass dome of the Cour Vitree, a whole new universe emerges.
Guo Pei utilized pineapple hemp for this collection, the treasured material of the Philippines that has a 400-year history of use as a fabric. This served as an elegant canvas for her to use her brilliant sewing techniques to interweave a number of different symbols, from beetles and butterflies to biblical figures and Greek goddesses.
Vogue remarked at the time that the show had “a stately cadence” and “the dresses were so spectacular and theatrical that defining them as sumptuous would be an understatement.”
9. Spring/Summer 2020 Couture Collection: “Himalaya”
On January 22nd, 2020, Guo Pei presented her Spring/Summer 2020 Couture collection at Palais de Tokyo. This distinguished palace of contemporary art was transformed into a holy realm of snowy pureness presenting 22 couture looks. Guo Pei explored the philosophical dialogue between primitive and civilization, recreating her imagination of the Himalayas :
“Himalaya is a place that has brought me countless fantasies… The steepness, solitude and the icy cold snow of its snowy mountain peaks could not annihilate her glorious divine image in my heart.”
The snow lotus was a key design element in this collection. Using luxury couture fabrics sourced from around the world, “Himalaya” featured precious gold brocade from China and antique Japanese Obi fabric. Employing Guo Pei’s signature luxurious palace embroidery techniques, Buddha and various Buddhist religious patterns from Thangkas were vividly illustrated on the pieces of this collection.
And now, please join us and get ready for Guo Pei’s tenth couture collection, which will be unveiled soon.