By Cintra Wilson

Distinctive to The Examiner

The Legion of Honor is hosting a lavish retrospective of the couture designer Guo Pei — more than 75 items selected from the runways of Paris and Beijing in excess of the previous two many years. The operate is otherworldly and stunning — each piece represents actually hundreds of several hours of painstaking, professional sartorial artistry.

If you’ve at any time had doubts about no matter if fashion could be deemed artwork, this is the exhibit that will convince you it can. The treasures are also showcased in the shockingly perfect location of the Legion of Honor’s neoclassical architecture and its many art-crammed rooms.

Pei is possibly very best recognised for dressing Rihanna for the 2015 Satisfied Gala in a canary yellow gown with a teach that essential 3 individuals to maneuver (a costume that took two years and 50,000 several hours to assemble).

In 2016, she grew to become the 2nd Chinese-born-and-educated designer to be inducted into the French trend industry’s Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture that year, she also was named a person of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential Persons.

Pei, 55, hails from Beijing, wherever she spent her early childhood beneath the limitations of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. Taught to sew by her mother, she rebelled from the necessary “Mao suit” clothes restrictions and dared to have on oversize attire.

Her grandmother was a repository of memory from China’s opulent, imperial past and explained to youthful Pei of wonderful silken robes, lavishly decorated with standard embroidery.

When Mao died and Deng Xiaoping took about as paramount leader of China in 1978, Pei was offered the opportunity to use to university and was acknowledged into a governing administration fashion system.

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Following graduating with a diploma in manner, she worked for a single of China’s initial branded garments suppliers. She was profitable there, but remaining to start out her personal style and design property and atelier, named Rose Studio, using the services of 25 staff. Element of her strategy was to revive the regular dressmaking skills missing through the Cultural Revolution.

As Pei informed Jill D’Alessandro, High-quality Arts Museums of San Francisco’s curator in cost of costume and textile arts: “I wanted my collection to describe reincarnation of not only human lifestyle, from lifetime to dying, but also of my tradition. … Through the Cultural Revolution, they wrecked their individual tradition, but my generation uncovered it again.”

Her Rose Studio now employs nearly 500 persons, capable of the kind of classic needlework and other forms of tailoring wizardry and abilities commonly reserved for the papacy or royal weddings.

Pei’s eyesight progressed right after recurrent excursions to Europe, in which she was uncovered to Western artwork, architecture and higher manner. The work showcased in this exhibition is an outrageous and chic fusion of her Chinese heritage blended with the elaborate fashions of the French courtroom, and even religious vestments — creations great for a Eurasian incarnation of the goddess Quan Yin, if she ended up off to Self-importance Fair’s Oscar occasion, or Lady Gaga, if she had been also the infallible Word of God.

“Faith, desires, devotion and love” are what Pei claims are her motivators, according to a recorded online video information from the artist to the museum. (Pei herself was regrettably not able to journey to The Metropolis thanks to COVID limits.) She is also explicitly encouraged by Imperial China, European court lifetime, theater, Chinese export artwork and the earth of botany. The Catholic Church and its regalia has certainly produced quite an impression on her as properly, as noticed by an huge golden robe replete with orphreys that would seem correct at home on the Infant of Prague.

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To stroll via her couture collections is to gasp at impossibly opulent, impressive feats of time and skilled element function there are miles of brocade and golden thread splashed about collars and neckpieces, bodices and giant trains — veritable, wearable Faberge eggs. Effectively, theoretically wearable: “I use the bodyweight of the clothes, the top of the footwear, and the unwieldiness of the costume to signify the internal strength and assurance of a girl,” reads a Pei estimate on just one of the museum partitions. One particular conjoined pair of gowns is truly produced to be worn by two gals at the moment (symbolizing the coexistence of two worlds in one particular location).

There is also a playfulness and humor at function in Pei’s creations that is both equally coquettish and alluring. There are gowns that on prime resemble what Marie Antoinette could possibly don to go bullfighting, but with tiered and layered silk miniskirts that give off a kind of flapper/1960s go-go dancer silhouette.

Although studying from costume makers how to composition hoop skirts, Pei identified a like for bamboo and basketry, which is employed in a number of parts that make short dresses appear like the sort of golden lampshades you’d locate at the sultan of Brunei’s home.

In the L’Architecture assortment — from Pei’s fall/winter 2018 runway assortment at the Cité de l’Architecture in Paris — there are midi-length gowns encrusted with beadwork detailing Gothic churches, and dresses constructed from translucent panels, embroidered with street scenes.

An additional home is made up of parts from East Palace, Pei’s spring/summer months 2019 assortment, which was encouraged by present-day normally takes on what Pei imagined females sporting in the Forbidden City during the Qing dynasty (1644-1912). Materials incorporating mother of pearl were developed for her recognizably Chinese silhouettes are provided daring new cutaways and ridiculously concerned beadwork.

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In addition to its possess dedicated gallery, Pei’s creations are also studded throughout the most important flooring of the museum, generating superb juxtapositions in between her layouts and artworks from Italy and France created in the 17th and 18th hundreds of years and religious parts from the Renaissance.

This show is a ought to-see knowledge for fashionistas and non-fashionistas alike. Pei is a couture mastermind, and her function is China’s declaration that it, way too, has acquired a important place on the world’s vogue runways.


“Guo Pei: Couture Fantasy”

Where: Legion of Honor, 100 34th Ave., S.F.

When: 9:30 a.m.-5:15 p.m., Tuesdays-Sundays, through Sept. 5

Tickets: $15 youth, $21 university student, $27 senior, $30 grownup

Get hold of: (415) 750-3600,

Guo Pei’s Elysium dress from her spring-summer season 2018 selection. (Photograph by Lian Xu, Courtesy High-quality Arts Museums of San Francisco)

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