Ask Hung Huang | Guo Pei and the Future of Chinese Couture

    For this week's column, we asked Hung Huang all about Chinese couture after the recent announcement that Guo Pei received official honorary couture status.
    A gown by Guo Pei. (Courtesy Photo)
    Hung HuangAuthor
      Published   in Fashion
    A gown by Guo Pei. (Courtesy Photo)
    A gown by Guo Pei. (Courtesy Photo)

    Following the recent announcement that Chinese couture designer Guo Pei was chosen this year to be on theInvited Members list of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, we sent questions to Hung this week about Chinese couture.

    We received great submissions over the past week on luxury e-commerce in China, which Hung is answering now. Check back next week to see which ones were chosen!

    For this week’s round of submissions, the theme will be

    Christmas and retail in China#

    . As malls and retailers across China set up elaborate Christmas decorations and create promotions for the upcoming holiday, ask Hung anything about what it means for businesses in a Chinese context. Submit your question via Twitter (hashtag


    ), Facebook, email (, or Weibo (hashtag



    Hung Huang. (Courtesy Photo)
    Hung Huang. (Courtesy Photo)

    Guo Pei and Yiqing Yin are the only two Chinese designers on the “Invited Members” list of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. Are these the only Chinese designers that can accurately call themselves “couture” at the moment?#

    Be it "couture" or “Champagne," the French are very good at setting industry standards to protect a name. If Guo Pei and Yiqing Yin are the only two, then they are the only two considered worthy by French standards, which in couture, is pretty much the only standard.

    How much do you think Guo Pei's gown worn by Rihanna at the Met Gala as well as the gowns on display at the Met influenced the organization's decision to invite her?#

    French trade organizations are very good at preserving themselves, which means getting new blood into the organization. Guo Pei's Met dress definitely would have caused the Syndicale to bat an eye. But that is not the only reason; I am sure there is a process, some vetting perhaps. And Guo Pei is totally ready for that; I have been to her workshop—it’s an amazing embroidery shop.

    From a business perspective, what are the challenges for a Chinese fashion designer to choose to create couture fashion instead of ready-to-wear?#

    China has a long tradition of dressing in bespoke clothes. I still remember making clothes with a tailor in the early 1980s. It is actually fun. In fact, a lot of foreigners have taken up bespoke dressing once they arrived in China. It is not sold as a luxury; it is actually cheaper than buying imported luxury brand fashion. All designers started as bespoke tailors; a small atelier, some clients.

    A lot of them would venture into ready-to-wear, but some would go back to bespoke. Ready-to-wear is industrial production; you need to get capital, work with factories. It’s complicated, and not all designers have a taste for it. Some prefer to stay small.

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