“I am here to show love and respect to Paris’s history of couture,” said Guo Pei, backstage at her first Paris Couture Week show surrounded by models—just one of them Chinese, wearing an iceberg-white wig.
The Chinese couturier who is a national treasure at home, but was little-known in the West until she dressed Rihanna in an entrance-making yellow gown for last year’s Met Gala, made her Paris couture debut at the 2016 spring-summer collections on January 27.
At the top of the minds of fashion’s cognoscenti was the Rihanna extravaganza that catapulted the designer to international stardom at last year’s Met Gala. Soon after, a Paris exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs showcased gowns of dynastic splendor—one which took 50,000 hours in the making.
They dazzled Paris, showing the masterful embroidery achieved by Guo Pei’s Chinese atelier—but they were not the stuff of couture’s ever-younger clients with a party in mind. The question on everyone’s lips was, “Where now?”
You could hear a pin drop as the lights dimmed for the most-anticipated show in Paris at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts.
Set against a backdrop of a royal, gilded Chinese courtyard, Guo Pei’s front-row guests included loyal clients such as Uma Thurman and industry leaders including Frank Cintamani, president of the Singapore-based Asian Couture Federation, and Emily Hwang, its vice president.
Guo Pei took them to a world of youthful exuberance, with a collection that expressed liberty, serenity, and prettiness in 43 pieces. She both nodded to a Western aesthetic and infused tenderness in the exquisite Chinese beading and embroidery. Her colors borrowed from blue skies breaking at dawn to baby’s-breath pinks. Silhouettes ran the gamut of a modern wardrobe—from perky shorts to dresses with a lightness of being.
“I respect the Paris tradition that fashion can speak to everyone,” she told Jing Daily. “I respect Paris haute couture from my heart; it cannot be replaced by any other country.”
She had traveled the Silk Road with sheer brilliance, acknowledging couture clients constitute a global set of chic travelers—seemingly unaffected by economic turmoil.
“It was luxury chic,” said international fashion producer and front-row guest Jessica Minh Anh after the show. “There was humor, it was wearable, and there was a cute factor in those shorts. And just eight full-length gowns. This was for genuine clients and not for the red carpet alone.”
Guo Pei embraced her Chinese heritage in the subtle embroidery, while offering pieces that looked nothing less than Oscar-ready. A diaphanous beaded full-length sheath with flying fringing was reminiscent of the transparent beauty of gowns worn by classic film stars such as Marilyn Monroe and Marlene Dietrich.
On models with hooped-up hair and sprinkled with Swarovski crystals on their necklines and décolleté, these shimmering surfaces only added to the sheer beauty of a collection that has deservedly moved forward to global recognition.
Susan Owens is the founder and editor of Paris Chérie, a Paris-based fashion website dedicated to bringing French style news to Chinese readers.