All it took was Rihanna at the New York Met Gala in a huge canary yellow cape to catapult Guo Pei to global fame. Yet Pei is far from a newcomer, she was first ‘discovered’ by MAC Cosmetics ten years ago, when the company started doing makeup for her shows in her homebase of Beijing. MM meets China’s premier fashion designer at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.
Guo Pei currently has an exhibit at the Musée, showing some of the dreamiest, most fairytale-like embroidered creations ever seen. All the pieces are handcrafted, down to the very last detail. Pei employs some 500 craftsmen, 300 of whom are embroiderers. “This exhibition is for people to get to know me”, she says. “The designs are a summary of what I’ve been doing in the last ten years. We added the dresses I started making three years ago when MAC asked me to collaborate with them. I accepted because makeup, like fashion, is all about colors.”
Blue stands out as Pei’s color of choice, both for her exquisite and delicate embroidered dresses and her MAC palette. “I love blue eyeshadow and blue eyeliner!”, she enthuses. “In China, it is quite a rare color, it isn’t used that much. But putting a little on the eyes is so nice.”
Guo Pei was among the first generation of Chinese fashion students. “In the eighties, nobody knew about fashion as a profession. I only discovered it because it was marked as one of the options on a school registration form. In China, at that time, everything was well planned, even fashion. We didn’t need designers, because everybody wore the same clothes, in the same colors. When I graduated in 1986, the period of reform and opening up had just begun.” Ms Guo became the chief designer at one of China's first independent clothing companies, and through her work she set about painting in all the missing colors of her childhood. By 1997 she had set up her own haute couture business.
The topic of the Guo Pei X MAC collaboration is ‘the garden of the inner soul’. Guo Pei: “I think everyone, happy or unhappy, has to take good care of their own garden. You don’t have to own an actual garden to do this. We must all try to make as many fresh flowers grow as possible. And don’t forget to get rid of the unhappy things in your garden! Try to nourish happiness through fresh flowers.” We’re sold.
Now online: Guo Pei X MAC maccosmetics.com. All products are embossed with a delicate flower pattern.