After working for years in ready to wear, Guo Pei launched her own label, Rose Studio, in 1997. She quickly gained an impressive A-list clientele in China, and is today widely considered China’s premier couturier, admired for her lavishly extravagant and visually stunning gowns. As the designer was in Singapore during Haute Couture Week to present for the first time outside of China her latest Legend of the Dragon collection, as well as a few older pieces, Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop talked to her about inspirations, creative process and plans for her next runway presentation.
You’ve only had four big couture presentations, why so few?
It would be really easy for me to throw together regular fashion shows. But I take couture shows seriously. They are like an exhibition to show my originality and my dreams. I don’t want them to be commercial at all. So I will only use my spare time to prepare a formal fashion show, that’s why you can’t always see my fashion shows.
Your last collection was inspired by the dragon, with dragon motifs and scales everywhere.
This year was the Chinese lunar year of the Dragon and that’s what I wanted to celebrate. For Chinese people, the dragon can represent Chinese culture the best.
In general where do you get your inspiration?
When I was young, I borrowed inspirations from everything, museums, books, travel. But after so many years, everything is in my mind. I meet three to 10 clients each day, and I need to come up with an original idea and draw in front of them. The design has to please me as well as the client. So, there is no time for me to look for inspirations in front of them. Nowadays it’s all from experience
Describe the creative process?
I sketch out first, really very detailed and usually what will be the final look. Workers will do their job step-by-step according to my draft. I seldom make any amendments in the middle as it’s really a waste of time and energy. Thus, planning ahead is necessary and essential.
Do you also draw the embroidery patterns?
Yes, I have some pattern designers who will first show me some patterns then I will choose the best ones and draw them on paper first.
You are better known internationally for your richly embroidered wedding gowns, are they the main focus of your designs?
No, I design everything from daywear to evening gowns. Wedding gowns are just a small part of my collection. I’m very prolific and I come up with more than 1,000 outfits per year, which is three times more than other Chinese designers do.
Who is the typical Guo Pei woman?
She’s elegant and cute. Cute is important. Women are cute at every age. My favorite woman is cute of appearance and strong of mind.
How has your design style evolved from your first collection?
My first couture collection was eight years ago. There has been no change of style on purpose. But there is often some historical context. The inspiration for my first collection came from two things. One was the war museum in Paris where I was impressed by Napoléon’s military uniform; the other one was a movie The Corpse Bride.
Are you already planning your next Couture collection?
Yes. I’ve had a dream since childhood to design a collection inspired by cloves. It’s a special kind of tiny flower, it’s not as beautiful as a peony or a rose, but many Chinese women do like it. The reason why I have such a passion to this flower is I grew up under a clove tree. There are also many Chinese poems to describe the beauty of this flower. I am already working on this collection now and you’ll see it in two years. But you won’t see the flower image; I will interpret it in my own language.