Redesigning a Nation: Guo Pei

I recently saw an exhibition by Guo Pei, an acclaimed haute couture fashion designer whose creations are completely unlike any other dresses I’ve ever seen (they’re seriously breathtaking). What I found particularly interesting was how Pei got her start in fashion. She grew up during the height of the Cultural Revolution in China, so the clothing she was surrounded with was drab and utilitarian, and her concept of fashion came from listening to her grandmother’s descriptions of the opulent clothing worn in the imperial court. Perhaps one of the reasons she can create such masterpieces now is because her imagination was able to run free without her seeing the real-world limits on what clothing has to look like.

Pei gets inspiration from her work from many different sources, including Chinese tradition, Catholicism, nature, and her own pregnancy. The way she incorporates these influences into her work reminds me of what we’ve discussed in class––for example, she represents Catholicism in images of steeples and gowns, but her take on maternity is more abstract, using rounded forms and pastels.

Here is a gallery of her works:

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