Catwalk model in an elaborate gold dress by Guo Pebeneath a blue tree

Guo Pei: Couture Fantasy

A retrospective at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor celebrates the extraordinary designs of Guo Pei

by Edel Cassidy
Words Edel Cassidy

Exquisite craftsmanship, lavish embroidery and unconventional dressmaking techniques are the hallmarks of the spectacular fashion designs of Guo Pei, China’s first and most distinguished couturier. 

Her lifelong enthusiasm for dressmaking began when she learned to sew at just two years of age. Passionate about her cultural heritage, Pei blends the finest of ancient Chinese embroidery and painting traditions with contemporary innovation and Western styles. Her extraordinary designs combine the influences of China’s imperial past with the grandeur of European court life, architecture and the botanical world.

Model wearing a highly decorative blue and white contemporary oriental style dress
Porcelain dress, 1002 Nights Collection, 2010. Image provided courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Couture Fantasy, an exhibition that includes more than eighty ensembles from the past two decades of Pei’s career, will be exclusively presented at the Legion of Honor, part of the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, from 16 April to 5 September 2022. This retrospective highlights the designer’s most important fashion collections, shown on Beijing and Paris runways, including many designs that have never before been shown to the public.

‘Drawing inspiration from European and Chinese artistic traditions, Guo Pei’s creations blur the boundaries between art and fashion,’ says Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. ‘Displayed in a neoclassical architectural context at the Legion Honor, amidst our collection of European art, Pei’s designs will encourage our visitors to consider the rich historical ties between
China and the West.’  

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  • ‘Guo Pei: Couture Fantasy’ is published in Anthology Volume 17. Read more features from this volume or buy it now.
  • Browse more features in fashion.
  • Featured image: Elysium, Spring–Summer 2018.Photo: Lian Xu. © Guo Pei / Asian Couture Federation.
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