To see a Guo Pei show is to see a spectacle. Her shows are a fanfare of drama and delight and what most, compared to your average show, would class as a little over-the-top. This was a show-stopping affair, with models walking at a delicate, delivered pace, one-by-one. A long, somewhat gruelling process, but onlookers didn’t seem to flinch at all, rather the opposite actually, most were spell-bound. Indeed, Pei is China’s most renowned couturier and the mass of individuals who came to see this performative show was a testament to her devoted, loyal fanbase.
Pei is often inspired by fairy tale or fantasy and this show certainly had those elements in droves, but for A/W 18, Pei had taken a more demure path, as this collection was more defined and neutral. The glitter explosions of yesteryear were replaced with an architecturally inspired collection that looked specifically to Gothic architecture for reference. Set in the Cité de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine, the surroundings were mirrored in the garments’ shapes, embroidery patterns, the linear make-up and the models’ tightly braided hair. You needn’t have read a press release to know that this collection was inspired by architecture; skirts were literally sculpted like steeples or turrets. Delicate black and gold embroidery of arches, stainless windows and Romanesque stylings were detailed over bodices, trains and stiff frames. The knock-out looks were a dramatic train that had a mapped skyline embroidered immaculately upon it, and a dress that had an oversized bustle, the back of which mimicked a landscape painting.
Pei is known for showcasing traditional Chinese craftsmanship in her designs and this collection had traditional embroidery and knot buttons throughout. However, one wondered if that was sufficient from such an esteemed export. Why was it that such Western architecture had captivated Pei? Particularly when Chinese architecture can be so captivating. Perhaps her opening of a studio in Paris, perhaps a new range of clientele.
The use of such religious imagery and scenery in her inspiration, along with a predominantly monochromatic colour palette, gave the collection a sombre mood that felt mature and purposeful. This solemnity was matched rather unfortunately in the models' faces as they walked, pained in those difficult structures and heels. Ultimately, Pei's creations are art pieces or collector's items, they are mesmerising in their display of technique and ornate attention to detail, and would look just as striking and awe-inspiring on a mannequin as they do on a moving model. It's high-time Pei had another Rihanna moment, her couture is made for the camera and for stealing the show.