19 OCT 2018: “Guo Pei: Couture Beyond,” a dazzling exhibit of 40 complete looks by Chinese couturière Guo Pei, opened last weekend to rave reviews. On display until January 20, it’s an inspired show that beautifully wraps up the Chinese-Canada year of Tourism 2018; it’s also an homage to the 1.8 million Chinese-Canadians across the country, many of whom live in Vancouver. This is the Vancouver Art Gallery’s first foray into showing fashion as art, and it’s a knockout.

Guo Pei rose to fame when Chinese star Song Zuying performed with Placido Domingo at the 2008 Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremonies in a Guo Pei gown encrusted with 200,000 Swarovski crystals. She also designed the sensational—and staggeringly heavy—gold- embroidered yellow cape worn by Rihanna at the 2015 Met Ball, the same year she collaborated on a signature cosmetic collection with MAC. She is the first Chinese national designer to be invited to join the prestigious Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, the French governing body for couture and she shows in Paris, where she is currently based.

The VAG exhibit is the result of a collaboration with Atlanta’s SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion and Film, where it made its North American premiere last year. Guo Pei is “one of the fashion world’s game-changing icons,” says VAG Director Kathleen S. Bartels. “Each of her designs is a masterpiece and feat of craftsmanship that will undoubtedly captivate fashion-savvy visitors and art-lovers alike in this Canadian premiere.”

Guo Pei was born and raised during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, when no one had the opportunity to wear beautiful clothes. Citizens were required to abandon finery and individuality, and girls did not wear dresses. Silk was rarely seen. Today, Guo Pei lavishes gold embroidery, luxury furs and stone-encrusted silks on her elaborate creations. Her style echoes the extreme luxe favoured by the Manchu, who established China’s last imperial dynasty, the Qing empire, in 1836. Much of her work is symbolic and includes elements of ancient Chinese tradition and mythology.

The soft-spoken designer, whose design goals are beauty, longevity and perfection, is passionate about the intricate details in her work. “Details are the reason I want to show at museums, where people can observe my work in a quiet space,” she says.

You can feast your eyes on her masterful designs, many of which took thousands of hours to create, in the unhurried exhibit spaces at VAG exhibit rooms and take in their extravagant beauty, detail by glorious detail. Brimming with fanciful glitter and haute glitz, it’s an ideal show for visitors during the holiday season.

“Guo Pei: Couture Beyond” is on exhibit until January 20, 2019 at the Vancouver Art Gallery


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