Guo Pei makes it clear that fashion is (and always will be) art

In honour of the artist’s show leaving the Vancouver Art Gallery, The Peak reviews her exhibition, Guo Pei: Couture Beyond

Image courtesy of the Guardian

By: Winona Young, Arts Editor

Remember the lavish yellow gown Rihanna wore to the Met Gala in 2015? Well, the woman behind one of Riri’s most notable fashion moments was none other than the Chinese fashionista who’s been making waves in the art world: Guo Pei.

The artist’s work was recently showcased in the Vancouver Art Gallery, the exhibition becoming available to the public after the documentary of Pei’s work was shown for the Vancouver International Film Festival. The exhibition was luxurious, awe-inspiring, and opulent as all hell.

Walking into Guo Pei: Couture Beyond, the hall was peppered with dresses from her previous collections. A screening of her previous fashion shows placed by the entrance. To give a visual frame of reference for her pieces, think of a mix between Hunger Games’ Capitol fashion and Alice in Wonderland, but couture. There is nothing muted, nothing bland about Guo Pei’s fashion, and even though her work is lavish as can be, it is complex without bordering on messy.

Particular highlights of the exhibit were Guo Pei’s 2012 collection, Legend of the Dragon, as well as her Spring 2017 collection.

Her Dragon collection is as grand as its inspiring myth. The gowns are bold, intricately embroidered, and most importantly, unique. Each beckons the viewer to look closer — there’s hidden imagery in every gown, and one could easily play a game of “Where’s the hidden dragon?”  

While Pei may be known for her gowns, the shoes from the collection were just as intricate. My favourite were a pair of pale green wedges that had a medal-sized golden metal piece of a Chinese character which was surrounded by complex flower designs. It certainly was an inspiring collection, calling back to her Chinese roots.

Her 2017 collection, though, was the most breathtaking. Her fashion show apparently opened with a model walking down the runway in a glow-in-the-dark dress complete with a candelabra, trying to channel Marie Antoinette — but with the caliber of Pei’s dresses, not even that was the collection’s most memorable moment.

Avant-garde but not outlandish, Guo Pei created breathtaking gowns for this particular collection. Echoing lavish French aristocracy, Guo Pei incorporated cathedral murals into her dresses, making the silk and golden gowns even more elevated in intricate beauty.

However, an honourable shoutout must be given to the 55 pound gold yellow dress that Rihanna wore. Despite the dress being placed in the corner, the dress has such a dominating presence that it absolutely demands attention.

Guests, upon completing the entire exhibit, were met with mostly comfortable seats to a video projection of her various fashion shows — her dresses no longer mere pieces on a mannequin, but in movement. Seeing them worn, you marvel more at the craftsmanship and internally applaud each model at handling the weight of each grand piece.

With gowns like hers, Guo Pei makes it clear that her name belongs in the fashion world — not just in China, but across the globe.