Guo Pei: the Chinese designer who made Rihanna’s omelette dress

Chinese designer Guo Pei had been creating couture for more than 30 years when Rihanna stepped on to the red carpet in an extraordinary yellow cape two years ago. Dubbed the omelette dress for its striking resemblance to brunch, it went viral and made the world notice Guo’s work.

The dress wasn’t designed for Rihanna. In fact, it had been sitting in Guo’s studio for three years when the singer’s team came across it after making inquiries into Chinese couture during the run up to the 2015 Met Gala, the theme of which was China: Through the Looking Glass.

Beijing-born Guo, who turned 50 recently, cut her teeth in fashion design following the Cultural Revolution. As Cathy Horyn explained in the New York Times, her career as a designer “began when there was no fashion in her country”. For the past 20 years, Guo has focused on high fashion, specialising in technical work that is grand in dimension and scale and as intricate as that of any Paris couture house. It’s no wonder that she has appeared at Paris couture week, last year becoming the first Chinese national to do so.

The now-famous Yellow Empress cape weighs 25kg, has a 16ft train, features over 50,000 hour’s worth of hand embroidery and took two years to make.FThe sheer weight of the dress meant that, when it was first shown, at a 2012 show in China, the model made it only halfway down the catwalk before the lights had to be turned off and the show stopped so that she could remove the cape and return backstage.

Rihanna managed to pull it off, though, literally and figuratively. “Rihanna wearing my design had a great impact – and the international fashion industry gained a new understanding of me,” says Guo, who is in Atlanta, Georgia, to promote the first solo exhibition of her work in the US at the city’s SCAD FASH Museum. For most people, it presents a chance to see the Yellow Empress cape up close.

Guo says finding fame through a single dress was “completely unexpected” – particularly the way it was popularised online via omelette memes. Speaking through a translator, she explains why the weight, shape and size of the dress matter. “When I had this design in mind, I [was thinking of] a woman that can carry weight on her arms. It’s a dress she has to lift, like she can lift the whole world. I always have a woman like that in mind.”

Guo is the subject of a new book and a documentary, Yellow Is Forbidden, by New Zealand film-maker Pietra Brettkelly, but it’s through her couture work showcased in this exhibition – about 45 gowns from the past decade, including pieces from her couture show in Paris, are on display here – that you really get a sense of Pei’s craftsmanship.

You can’t just view a Guo dress from one direction. On one dress, waves and clouds are stitched in synchronicity to symbolise wisdom and luck. For her dress inspired by a Ming vase, for 2012’s Miss China, she cracked porcelain and hand-painted silk. Her dresses cost around £500,000 and are usually sold to China’s elite, who prefer to wear “local” designers.

The Chinese influence on Guo’s work is clear. Allusions to auspicious dragons are embroidered in pearls, while silk flowers, abandoned in a factory abandoned during the Cultural Revolution, were restored and applied to the fabric, as if to reference her childhood. She has resurrected methods of tailoring, popular during Chinese dynasties, that were purged in the cultural destruction of the 60s and 70s. She is said sometimes to use strands of her own hair as thread, so she is as much a part of the dresses as they are a part of her.had been lost from her childhood.

“To me, it’s just something that comes out naturally,” she says about her focus on Chinese design. “I think my culture is my language and my blood and I can’t separate that from my work.” She adds: “I actually feel that today’s haute couture is not doing so great, but I am optimistic. I feel that, if one person does it and is persistent about it, it will inspire others.”

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Six identical dresses: we solve this and other wedding fashion disasters

Six identical dresses: we solve this and other wedding fashion disasters

After half a dozen women in Australia arrived at a wedding wearing the same dress, here are five steps to coping with toe-curling wardrobe woes
Guests at the wedding in Australia wearing the same dress by Forever Now.
Guests at the wedding in Australia wearing the same dress by Forever Now. Photograph: Debbie Speranza

Dressing for a wedding involves uncompromising rules. Complying often requires great expense and real discomfort (stilettos, shaping underwear, trousers that no longer accommodate your girth, and so on).

Forefront in the rulebook, though, is the commandment that a woman must not upstage the bride. And this weekend, it was contravened in spectacular style by six women who turned up to a wedding in Sydney all wearing the same £95 lace dress. A picture of the sextet, predictably, went viral at high velocity.

The women were not bridesmaids, nor was it planned. “We all saw the funny side of it,” insisted one of the group, although despite the affected nonchalance, this was undeniably toe-curling for all involved (of course, men seem to be fine with wearing identical navy or grey suits, but that is a discussion for another day).

In this spirit, here is a guide to styling out wedding fashion mishaps.

Matchy matchy

The Australian women did have the right idea: the first thing you must do is note this mishap publicly, probably with an Instagram post (#TwinningIsWinning). Skirting around your doppelganger all evening will make you look as ashamed as you really are about your pedestrian taste in clothing. Then, modify your outfit: borrow a floral centrepiece from the table, or fashion a crude badge from confetti.

NB: as the evening progresses, ensure your drunk significant other does not accidentally grope the wrong person.

Kate Moss in her Dior dress, pre-customisation.
Kate Moss in her Dior dress, pre-customisation. Photograph: Dave M. Benett/Getty

Wear and tear

If you rip something, make like Kate Moss: the supermodel’s quick customisation of a damaged champagne-coloured Dior dress at a 2007 party is the stuff of lore. If you’re bold, and carry a pair of scissors (who doesn’t?), you could try some slashing, otherwise, do some tucking and tying to conceal the hole.

Life is pain

You swore you would not wear shoes that left your feet lacerated, but have, obviously, done so. To have any fun, you must do that bobbing dancing that puts great pressure on the knees, but limits the movement of the feet and toes you can no longer feel. When forced to go anywhere, walk at the glacial pace of a visiting, elderly dignitary.

Thrills and spills

Less than a minute in to the reception and you have sluiced a glass of red wine all down your front, or smeared soap on your trousers. You look grubby, and must act, lest someone adds a picture of you to Facebook with a mean-spirited caption.

Obviously, attempt stain removal in the bathrooms – you might look like you’ve soiled yourself for 15 minutes, but dance vigorously and you will quickly dry. Otherwise, hold the order of service in front of the stain for the rest of the reception.

Flimsiness

The first Instagram photo of the big day reveals your dress to be entirely see-through when exposed to even the anaemic flash of an iPhone camera. Save yourself in the group photo by standing almost entirely obscured behind an usher.

Pious Fashion: How Muslim Women Dress, by Elizabeth Bucar

Elizabeth Bucar is a liar: she claims to be as bad at fashion as the next stereotypical academic who favours “comfort over appearance” when actually her detailed reading of Muslim pious fashion is crafted in a pithy fashion-speak that would be a credit to Vogue. I defy anyone not to be beguiled by her generous-hearted yet penetrating observation of pious fashion in Indonesia, Turkey and Iran.

Her dissimilation allows her to take the reader – positioned as non-Muslim, non-expert – on a guided tour, invoking the stereotypes she wants to unpick: “Muslims’ lives, it turns out, are not completely dictated by religious dogma or law. In fact, they are not all that different from non-Muslims’ lives.” Outlining how young Muslim women in Tehran, Yogyakarta and Istanbul shape urban cultures of modest dress, Bucar uses interviews with consumers, designers, retailers and journalists alongside ethnographic vignettes of outfits to examine the presumptions that modest dressing can’t be fashionable, and fashion can’t be faithful.

These challenges come from a globalised fashion industry which has until recently regarded Muslim pious fashion as antithetical to secularised modernity and from co-religionists who regard fashionability as potentially corrupting to faithfulness. In contrast, as Bucar discusses, building on the work of Saba Mahmood and others, styling the modest body can be integral to the cultivation of a pious disposition whose outward expression may act as a form of da’wa, “making this style of clothing more attractive to other Muslim women” and making “Islam more inviting to non‑Muslims”.

Historically specific local aesthetics determine variations. Batik hijabs in Indonesia are valorised for their pre-colonial cultural authenticity. First lady Hayrünnisa Gül creates a signature style of mono-colour outfits in Turkey. Yet with Gül pilloried in the secular Turkish style media for failed fashion, Bucar emphasises that the details of pious embodiment are everywhere subject to scrutiny by other pious dressers for whom aesthetic errors are “presumed to be outward manifestations of moral failures”.

I liked the book most when Bucar’s own specialism in religion and philosophy extended the debate. I have often heard Muslim women defend modest fashion from charges of vanity on the grounds that “Allah loves beauty”; Bucar traces this back to Ibn Sina’s (Avicenna) dual articulation of “sensible beauty” and “intelligible beauty”. For those adhering to the ethos of modesty, “pious fashion done well embodies both sensible and intelligible beauty: sensible because it is pleasing to look at, intelligible because it is part of God’s plan”.

With increasing numbers of Muslim women in Muslim-minority countries not wearing the hijab, it will be fascinating to see how this insight can be applied to understanding the personal and political significance of other forms of pious self-fashioning.

 

DEALMAN

Keep colourful and carry on: London Fashion Week round-up

On Saturday morning, the mayor of London Sadiq Khan sat front row to watch the SS18 show by Molly Goddard, who won the British Emerging Talent Award at the Fashion Awards last December. “I’m here to support up-and-coming British talent,” Khan told the FT after the show. “Fashion is who we are, it’s in our DNA. We should be proud of the fact that our fashion exports are growing, that we have a pipeline of talent coming through. There’s a new generation of people involved in fashion, whether it’s the new editor of Vogue or some of the designers you are seeing over the week.” New media and “influencers” are jostling for position on the front row with the traditional press. Vogue is on the brink of an eagerly awaited refresh, with Edward Enninful at the helm and a revamped team installed (although whether or not editors-at-large Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell are strictly new is debatable). Meanwhile the girls on the catwalk are noticeably from more diverse ethnic backgrounds. Model of the moment Adwoa Aboah (who walked at Burberry and Versus, among other shows) isn’t just a pretty face; she runs a topical online magazine called Gurls Talk and has just been appointed an ambassador for positive fashion by the British Fashion Council. BFC chief executive Caroline Rush said: “She has agreed to lead the charge and use fashion as a positive platform to inspire future generations.” And then there’s the campaign by the BFC, Vivienne Westwood and the mayor of London to encourage fashion brands and businesses to switch to a green energy supplier by 2020. Molly Goddard © Catwalking Of course this is all taking place under the looming storm cloud of Brexit. Almost everyone in the British fashion industry was opposed to the idea of leaving the EU, given the potential complications of trade tariffs, unfavourable exchange rates, and restrictions on hiring talent from abroad. Meanwhile, on the first day of London Fashion Week, a terrorist bomb partially exploded on the Tube, and the security level was raised to critical. If anything, though, these (albeit differing) threats to the London way of life spurred the industry to demonstrate its resolve to keep calm and carry on. Sadiq Khan said the day after the bomb scare: “See the confidence here this morning, everyone is upbeat and optimistic. We are a resilient, stoic, brave city. We aren’t going to allow the actions of a cowardly individual to change the way we are at Fashion Week, which epitomises the best of London.” As Brexit negotiations trundle on, many designers are thinking about their place in a post-EU landscape. Speaking backstage at Burberry, designer Christopher Bailey said: “We are trying to figure out our identity in this changing world. I was trying to understand Britishness; I feel European but I’m proud of my British roots.” Burberry © Catwalking His September 2017 line moved away from the aristocratic, stately home flavour that usually runs through his shows. Instead, he presented more laid-back plastic rainwear in pastels and Burberry check, oversized knits that fused argyle and Fair Isle, and easy tartan car coats and trenches. Styled with checked caps and ankle socks, the looks harked back to the laddish, head-to-toe check, football-terrace associations that Burberry tried to shake off in the mid-2000s. Now, largely thanks to designer Gosha Rubchinskiy, with whom Bailey has collaborated, the aesthetic feels relevant again. At Christopher Kane, the designer dubbed his show “Domestic Services” and explored the British obsession with what goes on behind the proverbial net curtains. “There’s something so OCD about it,” he explained, “both clean and kinky — the smell of bleach, Royal Doulton china, Cynthia Payne, Readers’ Wives.” Christopher Kane © Catwalking His collection reflected a seemingly perfect woman who is “breaking inside”, and combined floral dress coats and silk slips with French-maid-style black vinyl dresses, pink sparkly knits in a scouring pad texture and lacy négligées. At Anya Hindmarch, quilted bed jackets and house coats, along with squashy bags inspired by eiderdowns, evoked a vision of suburbia that was less kinky, more cosy. Erdem took the ultimate beacon of Britishness, the Queen, and imagined what she would wear on a night on the tiles at the legendary jazz haunt The Cotton Club. The answer was a souped-up take on her royal wardrobe, with plenty of fizz and sparkle via fringed flapper dresses, tea dresses in bold florals, and a pink silk taffeta A-line dress with delicate crystal embellishment. With couture-like techniques, it was one of the standout shows of London, picking up on the girlish aesthetic identified by Lisa Aiken, retail fashion director at Net-a-Porter. Erdem © Catwalking “The overall mood of the season is very feminine,” said Aiken. “We saw this begin in New York and continue into London, with the likes of Preen, Simone Rocha and Christopher Kane, all of whom worked with pastels, florals and ruffles with a cool-girl edge . . . Other ideas we loved include summer tailoring, sequins and shine, a lot of bold colour [seen at Mary Katrantzou], deconstructed silhouettes and natural fabrications.” Mary Katrantzou © Catwalking Materials with a homespun air cropped up everywhere. At JW Anderson, a utilitarian white glass cloth with a red trim resembled a dishcloth. Molly Goddard offered apron skirts. Roksanda Ilincic said that with her collection of voluminous summer dresses, she wanted to “come back to rawness, when things were done by hand”. She continued: “We live in a time where we are overexposed to imagery online and on Instagram, but it’s perfection, not real life.” JW Anderson © Catwalking Roksanda © Catwalking Likewise, Hussein Chalayan’s deftly draped and tailored pieces took the insidious power of social media as their inspiration. Judging by the sea of phones recording every last flutter of fabric on the catwalk, however, his message is not being heeded just yet. Chalayan © Catwalking Especially not at Tommy Hilfiger’s rock-themed, groupie-meets-roadie-chic show for AW17. The brand’s relocation to London aimed for maximum social-media impact, with live-streaming, multiple dedicated hashtags, a performance by the DJs The Chainsmokers, and Brazilian footballer Neymar in the front row. Tommy Now © Catwalking In light of the fact that Giorgio Armani was also in London for the first time in 11 years to show his Emporio Armani line, the city’s spirit and energy still holds plenty of international appeal, for the moment at least. Talking at the launch event for Fashion Week, deputy mayor for culture and the creative industries Justine Simons agreed that “fashion plays an important part in our reputation abroad. Every time we poll people, they say the reason they come to London is culture and creativity, so you can’t underestimate the role that the creative story plays in our city.”

Gucci channels Elton John for its Milan fashion week show

Heidegger’s thoughts on authenticity, Camus’ writings on the nature of rebellion, 17th-century cartography and the stage wear of Elton John – the catwalk show that opened Milan fashion week did not follow a formula smacking of obvious commercial success. But this is Gucci, where the designer Alessandro Michele’s avant-garde approach to luxury has confounded the industry.

The fashion house’s financial results, released this summer, showed a phenomenal 43.4% sales growth. Even more striking is that Gucci, whose catwalk set mapped the Roman site of Horace’s Villa and whose show notes touched on post-structuralism, is adored by a younger generation most fellow heritage brands struggle to connect with: half of all Gucci customers were born after 1980.

Model Fumi Nikaido at the Gucci show in Milan
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Model Fumi Nikaido at the Gucci show in Milan. Photograph: Felizzano/WWD/Rex/Shutterstock

Michele is the most successful fashion designer of this decade despite – or perhaps because of – not seeming particularly interested in clothes. In a 25-minute pre-show briefing for editors, held in the grandly modernist Milan palazzo Gucci built for its golden boy, Michele did not mention a single garment.

“Sometimes I think, it would be easier if I could just make some beautiful shoes for the shop. But no, I want to change the aesthetic of this whole company and that way I can change what fashion is. I want to make things that create possibility, that make an opportunity for the world to change and to grow,” he said.

Diversity and authenticity are recurrent themes. “I am trying to push the idea of fashion, and to destroy the old codes of fashion,” said Michele, who was wearing a heavily embroidered jacket that an hour later featured on the catwalk worn by a female model.

“Fashion is trying to keep alive codes which are from the age of the New Look, of Mr Dior. The old way of thinking that goes, ‘the new season is blue’ or ‘the new ballerina look’, I am not interested in that. And when the casting people say to me about a model, ‘she is beautiful, she is a new face, she has beautiful legs’ – I don’t care about that at all. I care about the way the girl is romantic, the way she sees the world, not that she looks a certain way. I want to tell stories so I think in a cinematic way.”

A model presents a creation by Gucci at the Milan show on Wednesday.
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A model presents a creation by Gucci at the Milan show. Photograph: Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images

Michele’s Gucci, steeped in Medici symbolism and Renaissance silhouettes when it burst on to the catwalk at the beginning of 2015, last year shifted toward disco and from there toward hip-hop, with many an eye-catching red herring – such as a fur-lined loafer – along the way.

This season the aesthetic took a turn toward glam rock, with clothes inspired by Elton John’s stage outfits. Tour jackets, high-waisted jumpsuits and power-shouldered blazers were worn by male models dripping in jewellery and female models whose crispy fringes resembled Renate Blauel, whom Elton John married on Valentine’s Day 1984.

But for all its progressive talk, Gucci’s success is built on an identity that remains largely stable from season to season. Its fans will pay elevated prices because by rejecting the trend cycle, Michele sells pieces with a longer shelf life, remaining recognisably Gucci for more than one season.

All the key elements of the Gucci aesthetic – slick 1970s sportswear, drugstore barrettes, shrunken trousersuits, rainbow stripes, geek-chic glasses, obtuse slogans, backless shoes, a certain old lady-ish silhouette of a fur coat over a long dress, Disney references, pearls – were in full effect.

How Gucci turns this arthouse script into box office gold was hinted at with the invitation to the show. Each guest received an ornate pharmacy tin inscribed “GUCCY” containing candles, matches, scented paper and silk thread. “The show is a spell I cast on you,” explained the designer. “Like a wizard.”

 DEALMAN

 

Kaia Gerber’s First New York Fashion Week Included Burgers, Crystal Bodysuits and Puppies

Are you feeling nostalgic for a certain kind of America, one that was simpler, wilder and full of possibility? Fashion sure is. Themes and motifs pillaged from the Wild West — or our fantasy of it — played out all over the fall 2017 runways, most notably at Raf Simons’s debut collection for Calvin Klein, which featured bygone staples in unexpected color combinations.

But unlike many designer trends, this one is available in fine form at a variety of prices. Case in point: Wrangler, a company that can rightfully lay claim to the look, has teamed up with the seminal 1970s designer Peter Max on a collection that’s as psychedelic as it is cowboy appropriate, and won’t eat up your entire shopping budget. Explore that, and other key pieces, below.

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Wrangler’s under-the-radar collaboration is chock-full of Western-inspired pieces updated for 2017. They’re probably not fit for the saddle but perfect for exploring the arguably wilder frontiers of Manhattan’s city streets.

Peter Max x Wrangler collection, from $60 (for a T-shirt) to $240 (for a jacket) at wrangler.com.

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Embroidered details deliver the message without being overpowering.

Bliss and Mischief embroidered corduroy jacket, $498 at shopsuperstreet.com.

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In a dark wash, boot-cut jeans, cropped and frayed, are the perfect base.

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Frame jeans, $235 at Matches Fashion; matchesfashion.com.

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The subtle Calvin Klein take on cowboy boots is a good way for those of us who fear appearing as if Halloween has come early to indulge in the trend.

Calvin Klein 205W39NYC spazzolato leather boots, $1,295 at Barneys New York; barneys.com.

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Levi’s classic trucker jacket has always had rugged appeal. In tawny suede, with a sherpa collar, it’s ready for the range.

Levi’s suede trucker jacket, $325 at Levi’s; levi.com.

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In silk, a western shirt is dressy enough for dinner or the office. Pair with jeans for the chuck wagon, smart black slacks for work.

Barbara Bui silk shirt, $690 at farfetch.com.

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In understated cream, with minimal embellishment, Rocco P.’s boots are just the right amount of cowboy.

Rocco P. leather boots, $750 at farfetch.com.

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If you’re bold enough to go all in on the trend, a fringe jacket with embroidered detail is the ticket.

Alyssa Miller jacket for Understated Leather, $715 at Free People; freepeople.com.

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What’s the speediest way to add some rancher flair to jeans and a T-shirt? How about a studded leather belt?

These are our current favorite ’80s-inspired looks from fashion week

From the runways of New York to the showrooms of Milan and beyond, the decade of neon everything and sharp shoulders has found its way to today’s fashion circuit. No stranger to playing small, Gucci took the lead when it came to finding inspiration in the ’80s,opting for sequins, shoulder pads, and metallics to prove its case. Even our girl Rihanna was inspired by the candy-colored brights and high-cuts of the decade. While we may be betting on millennial pink to stick around forever, we’d argue that an ’80s neon variation is making its own comeback.Although Milan Fashion Week is just starting, we could’t help but round up some of our favorite ’80s-inspired looks from the spring/summer 2018 runways.

Gucci took the cake for their ’80s revival.

While there are plenty of designers inspired by the decade of kitsch and jazzercise, no one took their collection quite as far as Alessandro Michele, Gucci’s creative director. There were bold brights partnered with metallics and in-your-face prints. There was costume style jewelry and grandma glasses, and there were plenty of metallics and sequins.

Gucci
Catwalking/ Getty

Another motif that helped Gucci stand out from the crowd? Its use of sharp, exaggerated shoulders. Many looks in the collection featured boxy blazers that were reminiscent of the popular style of the ’80s.

Gucci
Catwalking/ Getty

But the classic silhouette of nipped waists and boxy shoulders got a chic upgrade thanks to some major embellishments like sequin heart patches and all-over velvet. Instead of leg warmers, we saw colorful socks playing peekaboo, which felt equally as fun. Add in some candy-colored silk staples and you have a millennial take on ’80s style.

Gucci
Catwalking/ Getty

Lightning bolts, foiled finishes and fishnets all helped pack a kitschy punch with this collection as well. Bedazzled bodysuits even made an appearance, proving that fashion always cycles.

Fashion East’s fuchsia fantasy also reimagines ’80s glam.

Fashion East
Eamonn McCormack/BFC/ Getty

Fashion East was another favorite when it came to ’80s style glam. By reimagining the off-the-shoulder top and pencil skirt in a silky, bold fuchsia finish, this look brings the ’80s into the new millennium. Paired with a bag that could be a crossbody purse or a fanny pack, this ensemble also packs an element of surprise. Add in some sheer socks and black pumps, and this look is one to remember.

J.W. Anderson perfects the oversized leather jacket.

A model walks the runway at the J.W.Anderson Spring Summer 2018 fashion show during London Fashion Week on September 16, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Catwalking/Getty Images)
Catwalking/ Getty

Worn and beloved by nearly everyone, the leather jacket just has it. It has gone through many iterations through the decades, with one of the most notable being the boxy, oversized version that ’80s bad boys seemed to love. While many have tried to recreate this silhouette, this season, no one does it quite as well as J.W. Anderson, whose belted version helped land him on this list. With its rounded shoulders and “large but not too large” fit, this is a staple we would wear for decades to come.

Fenty x Puma creates a DayGlo daydream.

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Peter White/ Getty

Off-the-shoulder was a classic ’80s statement-making silhouette, and we’re glad it’s still around. Of course, Fenty x Puma put its own twist on the style, adding corset-like lacing up the sleeves of the navy blue off-the-shoulder dress. The Pepto-Bismol pink accent with matching choker also helps cement this look as one of our favorites from fashion week thus far. Add in some mesmerizing lemon yellow slides and you’ve really got us hooked.

The Blonds imagine a gilded kitschy fantasy.

The Blonds
Frazer Harrison/ Getty

This look has it all: some incredible gold gilded boots, a ridiculously high-cut latex swimsuit, a classic ’80s style leather jacket, and a kitschy hair accessory that makes us want to lay on an island with a mojito. The Blonds’ latest collection was filled with head-turning pieces that were bedazzled to the nines. This over-the-top look is rocker-chic-meets-island-Barbie, and honesty, we’re inspired to lay on a private island for the rest of our days while wearing this.