Guo Pei: Couture Beyond

“Fashion shouldn’t just be about the present. I care more about the meaning behind the details.  Therefore, the embroidery and motifs you see on my clothing all have stories behind them.”

Guo Pei, 2018

Guo Pei is a storyteller, first and foremost.  Her stories are not given with words that are written with pen and paper. They are created with the artistic energy and flare of embroidery and bead-work that adorns her exquisite couture collections.

The Vancouver Art Gallery exhibition was a testament to one woman’s perseverance and determination to revive an ancient art deeply rooted in tradition. Guo Pei’s vision of storytelling ignited a passion in others to share their knowledge, experience and love for the art of embroidery.  Guo Pei’s fashion is sensational for its beauty and glamour. Her most profound achievement is her influence in creating a place where art can flourish. A new generation of embroiderers have come together to give honour to their profession, culture and heritage.

The Samsara collection of 2006 was inspired by Samsara, a word in Sanskrit that refers to the continuous cycle of life, death and rebirth.  An Amazing Journey in a Childhood Dream, launched in 2008, gave joy and rebirth to the fairy tales of childhood. The 1002 Nights collection of 2009 came from Middle Eastern folktales that we know as Arabian Nights. The Legend of the Dragon, launched in 2012, captured the splendor and elegance of China’s mythology and showcased the Chinese zodiac pantheon.

“Guo Pei: Couture Beyond,” allowed visitors to experience the exuberant spectrum of visual narratives held within the folds of shimmering cloth.  There was a quiet reference throughout the gallery as visitors embraced the joyful sophistication of the exhibition. Each piece was an affirmation and tribute to skilled artists working together, side by side, patiently, with focused diligence.

Guo Pei was born in 1967, in the city of Beijing. By the age of two, she helped her mother sew winter clothes.  This marked the beginning of her love of dressmaking, which turned into an extraordinary journey of revitalization.

“By 1881 there were 1,050 people – primarily young girls- in the East China city of Suzhou alone engaged in embroidery. However, in 1997, when Guo Pei set off to open her own atelier, Rose Studio in Beijing, she struggled to find skilled embroiderers able to bring her creations to life.” Vancouver Art Gallery Exhibition

To fulfill her vision, Guo Pei would go door to door to find skilled embroiderers.

“Guo Pei had heard that in the Hubei province there remained a group of craftspeople who had embroidered for the royal family, so she journeyed to central China knocking on the doors of homes with embroidered curtains.” Vancouver Art Gallery Exhibition


“With the aide of the women she met there, Guo Pei trained a new generation of embroiderers and has built at atelier that employs more than 500 workers including skilled artisans and technicians. Together, they produce three to four thousand custom garments each year Vancouver Art Gallery Exhibition

It was a privilege to see the Guo Pei Beyond Couture exhibition and be inspired to give voice to my personal creative journey.

Guo Pei from Rebecca Budd aka Clanmother on Vimeo.

Guo Pei: Couture Beyond is the first Canadian exhibition devoted to the work of Guo Pei, China’s preeminent couturière. This mid-career survey features more than forty complete looks from Guo Pei’s most iconic runways from 2006 to 2017. In her theatrical, extravagant creations, Guo Pei combines contemporary aesthetics, production methods and materials with ancient tradition, evoking Chinese history and mythology in her craft techniques, fabric selection and imagery. The exhibition provides a comprehensive overview of her evolution as a designer as well as her contribution to global fashion culture. Vancouver Art Gallery

Published by Rebecca Budd

Blogger, Visual Storyteller, Podcaster, Traveler and Life-long Learner

21 thoughts on “Guo Pei: Couture Beyond

    1. Thank you for your nomination – I am delighted that we connected. By the way, I heard that Queen Victoria’s dresses will be on exhibit at Buckingham Palace. Would love to beam over…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. During the summer, when the Queen is not in residence in London, the Palace is open to the general public and is showcasing some exhibitions. This year I think they may be going with Victoriana. It would be a lovely opportunity also to meet in person.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. This exhibition inspired me to look back at the arts and crafts movement of the Victoria age. The most powerful part of this story is that an ancient art form was revived and that she found valuable employment for 500 people. I really appreciate your visit. Hugs coming your way!


  1. Wow! Excellent post and Guo Pei’s breadth of work know no bounds as her creative inspiration takes her across the centuries, countries. Your video is superlative – at first, I thought it was an advertisement feature from the museum! You should be doing their PR, your passion and enthusiasm are contagious.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You would have been overwhelmed with this exhibition – just as everyone else was. The detailed work on each dress was extraordinary. Thank you for you lovely comments about the video, which is created on my iPad. We have remarkable technology these days and I continue to learn. Which makes life all the more exciting. By the way, my sister just downloaded Scrivener. Thanks again for the introduction.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hope your sister gets on well with the Scrivener! 😀 I just saw on the news Queen Victoria’s outfits which are going to be displayed at Buckingham Palace … they looked stunning and the detail incredible. It is amazing how brand new they appeared even after so many years!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a marvelous post that I really relate to. You have even included history that Geo Pei is finding and encouraging. This exhibition is grand and shows this artist and her desire to resurrect an art that in our present day is so easy to forget. Embroidery was popular when I was a teen. We learned all the special stitches and adorned our blouses and other clothing with interesting patterns. I remember doing towels for drying dishes for each day of the week with an appropriate design for each of the seven days. These I placed in my hope chest that I would open after I married. Now all the embroidered doilies that we used to spend a lot of time doing can be purchased for very little money at Walmart or elsewhere–and machine made, of course. Thank you for sharing this story and way to go, Geo Pei!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so glad that we saw this exhibition together. I will treasure the memory. I remember those dishtowels. In fact, I think I have one of them put away as an art piece. When you made them, did you ever think that they would be considered “art.” A reminder that our creative endeavours take on a life of their own.


  3. Well, you know I adore this!!! The pieces are riches of couturier.
    It seems I too, have been going the way of handwork. All of the Art Gowns are hand sewn. Although I’ve begun a new Art Gown, I’ve also started a full length lace coat sort of thing made from the bordeur lace I got on liquidation for $0.50 a yard. I then plan to use up as much of my bead collection, as possible, and encrust the lace design. My bead collection is from an adult lifetime of saving leftover beads from projects.
    Your video is absolutely excellent!!!
    Love all of this! Thank you, Rebecca! ❦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was thinking of you the entire time I was at this exhibition. $.50/yard – what a amazing find. Can’t hardly wait to see the photos. When I was young, my mother made all of my clothes. Then at 11, I finished my first dress – all by myself, I would say. Then I progressed to mini skirts, hot pants – and bellbottom pants. YIKES – the 1970’s was an amazing decade. There is a marvelous feeling of creativity when I had a needle and thread in my hand. I believe that we will have a return to needlework. My grandmother tried to teach me how to tat which produces a “kind of knotted lace made by hand with a small shuttle, used chiefly for trimming.” I found the tatting shuttle and am now ready to learn. In our fast-paced world, we have come to rely on fast fashion, but I see there is a resurgence in going back. Thanks for joining me at the “gallery.” Hugs!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What stunning work – no wonder you enjoyed the exhibition so much. You are so right that there are many more ways to tell a story than via the pen. And how lucky we are to be able to share them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, Liz, I agree wholeheartedly. We have many opportunities to connect and tell our stories. We must embrace this calling with enthusiastic abandonment. One of the most profound quotes about storytelling comes from the Canadian writer, Richard Wagamese:

      All that we are is story. From the moment we are born to the time we continue on our spirit journey, we are involved in the creation of the story of our time here. It is what we arrive with. It is all we leave behind. We are not the things we accumulate. We are not the things we deem important. We are story. All of us. What comes to matter then is the creation of the best possible story we can while we’re here; you, me, us, together. When we can do that and we take the time to share those stories with each other, we get bigger inside, we see each other, we recognize our kinship – we change the world, one story at a time…”


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