Modern Chic with Traditional Design– Guo Pei, China’s Top Fashion Designer

Guo Pei is a familiar name in China’s dress-making circles. For years, her works have been one of the shining highlights of the annual showcase of talent, the CCTV Spring Festival Gala. And she was also the designer behind the beautiful ceremonial dresses used in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

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The closing ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics saw a duet between Chinese singer Song Zuying and world famous tenor Placido Domingo as they performed “The Flame of Love”. Standing on a high elevator platform in the center of the stadium it wasn’t only their voices that impressed the audience. Song Zuying’s long robe also dazzled, adding even more glamour to the event.

The diamond-studded garment was a product of Guo Pei, one of China’s most prominent dress designers.

“I didn’t spend much time designing the dress but it did take a lot of time to make. I used more than 200,000 Swarovski crystals that we had to attach to the dress manually. Since we only had about 2 weeks, I hired a dozen people who worked shifts nonstop day and night to finish the dress on time.”

Few designers are bold enough to use 200,000 crystals on one dress. Guo Pei explains what lay behind this decision.

“I think I purchased almost all the Swarovski diamonds in Hong Kong! Why choose diamonds to decorate the dress? Since the Olympics was such a unique opportunity for our country, for the singer Song Zuying and of course for me to show my work to the world, I felt there was nothing else that could reflect the glamour of the occasion. I wanted my dress to glimmer like a precious stone, so I decided to use diamonds.”

Song Zuying and Placido Domingo performing on the closing gala of the Beijing Olympic Games and Song is wearing Guo Pei’s design with 200,000 crystals on it.

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Song Zuying is not the only big star in China that has donned Guo Pei’s masterpiece. The actress Zhang Ziyi has also had the privilege. Guo Pei is now a household name in China after producing dresses for the hosts of the annual CCTV Spring Festival Gala.

Dong Qing, one of the most famous TV presenters in China, has hosted the gala since 2005.

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“When the curtain opens for the start of the show and we hosts step out, before we speak, the first scene billions of viewers see is our dresses, our make-up and our smiles. You can tell how important the dresses are.”

Every year, the Gala show attracts billions of Chinese viewers both at home and abroad with the whole world focused on the stage. Guo Pei also sees the Chinese New Year gala as a chance to represent her works to the public.

“All the singers and actors want to participate in the gala, since it has such a huge audience and that moment is key to the career of many singers and actors. As so many people pay close attention to the gala, the same number will also see the performers’ outfits, so I think it is an opportunity for me, too.”

Guo Pei took full advantage of the opportunity. In last year’s gala, she designed a stunning dress for China’s most famous folk song singer Song Zuying. To echo the song’s theme of spring, the robe transformed mid-performance from white to a multitude of colors, just like flowers bursting into full bloom.

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“I hope I could add more points to her performance through designing her dress. When I first brought the dress to rehearsals to show it to the directors of the show, the moment they saw it change color they all exclaimed ‘wow!’ No one expected the dress to ‘bloom’. I knew then that it was a success – although they were just directors, they were also my first audience.”

Guo Pei started her designer career when she was 19. In 1986, she graduated from college and became one of the first professional designers in China. Back then, most Chinese people didn’t know what design meant. People didn’t care much whether clothes were designed well or not. Even TV hosts and performers wore everyday clothes. But along with the development of society and thanks to the government’s opening up policy, people have become more aware of well made clothes. An increasing number of people are getting involved in design with many other experienced Chinese designers like Guo Pei winning recognition both home and abroad.

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Guo Pei’s designs always contain Chinese elements, from embroidery to traditional patterns, but they also include modern influences. She combines oriental flavor with western cutting styles perfectly. It’s for this reason she was chosen to design the ceremonial dresses for the Beijing Olympics.

Now she runs a clothing design company called “ROSE STUDIO HAUTE COUTURE “. For ten years, she has been promoting the idea of high-quality tailor-made garments in china, and her clientele includes many of the biggest names in the country. Guo Pei says she will continue this work, and the pursuit of her lifelong dream, namely to design garments that will be remembered for generations.

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

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Chinese Designers Embrace Global Fashion Stage(1)

When foreigners are amazed and enchanted in the mysterious culture and arts of China, Chinese element has already joined the rhythm of global fashion. Cuties bring forth the vogue of minority style on world stage. You may pick them up in most fashionable cities like Paris or Milan.

Embroidered shoes, pleated batik skirts, shining silver accessories of the Miao minority – these are the exotic Chinese flavors that will pervade the Paris fashion trade fair, which begins in the world’s fashion capital today.

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China’s promising young designers, He Jian, Zhu Xiaoyu and Yang Jie – all of whom are winners of the latest Seven Brand Cup China Style Costume Creation Contest – will debut at this premier fashion event that brings together the most cutting-edge designs and collections in Europe.

“We think Chinese designers can win international recognition by incorporating unique Chinese elements into world fashion trends,” says He Jian. His collection features innovative combinations of ethnic costumes and modern men’s casuals, while Zhu Xiaoyu and Yang Jie both derive inspiration from the costumes of the Miao and Zhuang minorities. Today’s youngsters have been inspired by the success of other Chinese designers who have starred previously in such fashion capitals as Milan, New York and London.

Zhang Zhifeng, art director of NE Tiger Clothing Company, is one such example. The veteran designer wants to build NE Tiger as an international luxury brand in China – in the same league as Louis Vitton and Armani.

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Zhang has explored the use of Chinese Yunjin, the special brocade once reserved for royalty, in his collections. He adopts the traditional “seamless” weaving method in his haute couture fabrics, once used exclusively for the brocade dragon robe of the emperors. Exquisite handmade Chinese embroideries of the phoenix and peony are also widely used. As the making of the brocade and the embroideries are extremely time-consuming and complicated, it usually takes Zhang and his skilled craftsmen months to make one suit, with the price hovering in the region of 50,000 yuan ($6,756).

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“Yunjin and embroidery mark the high points of Chinese clothing culture. I hope to arouse an awareness and appreciation of these rare gems through my designs,” says Zhang.

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His collections feature a harmonious combination of traditional culture and modern fashion elements. He includes Western fashion inspirations and solid cutting techniques into his designs and applies georgette, damask, Italian baldachin, lace and Swarovski crystals to Chinese silk and brocade to redefine the Western gown, corsage, pleat skirt and fish skirt.

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Zhang’s persistence has helped NE Tiger, the once barely known local brand, to become the leading Chinese haute couture brand for furs, evening gowns and wedding clothes, in just 10 years. His studios are scattered across the United States, France, Italy and Russia, and his designs have even won over royalty in Europe. For instance, Joachim Holger Waldemar Christian, the prince of Denmark, chose NE Tiger, to make the evening gown for his fiancée.

 

by Xiao Xiao xiaoxiao@interactchina.com