Guo Pei- Star to the stars
Bespoke tailoring was considered inferior to many of the items sold in department stores at that time. Clients often asked her why the clothes she sold at Rose Studio were more expensive than brand name items.
What sustained her, she says, was her passion for couture.
A ready-to-wear designer has to guess what will appeal to the general consumer, she says, but haute couture is easier because “you only need to think about one customer, her needs, her taste and her style”.
It also allows her free rein on her creativity: “I can design something very arty and far removed from reality.”
Guo admits she has not been a shrewd businesswoman. It is the usual bespoke tailoring rule to ask only for a deposit first, but Guo insisted on the full amount upfront.
Even so, her own rule sometimes worked to her disadvantage. Time and again, the perfectionist went over budget to realize her ideal design: “I can’t help it, because they’re my creations.”
The way she put her heart into each piece of clothing eventually won her a group of loyal clients. Today, Rose Studio boasts more than 1,000 regular customers, who buy up to 30 to 40 dresses a year.
Many of them treat clothing designed by Guo as a kind of museum piece.
Her knack of making clothes that reflect individuality has made her a star among entertainers.
At the annual Central China Television (CCTV) New Year’s Gala, hosts and performers wear Guo’s designs. There are even rumors she has a contract with CCTV.
“Actually, they all came to me as individual clients,” Guo says.
Celebrities at public events insist on a unique design because they don’t want to be seen wearing the same as anyone else, or compared with another star who has the same outfit.
“They have different personalities and qualities and are beautiful in different ways. The dresses they wore were meant to enhance that. There’s no way to compare,” Guo says.
Her success has inspired many fashion design students to pursue a haute couture career. Guo advises them to be humble.
“You can’t think of yourself as an artist, but as a service provider.”
Even though she’s among the most sought-after designers in China, Guo still agrees to late night meetings to suit the needs of clients.
“In my recent collection, my inspiration came from blue and white porcelain. I wanted to show the low-profile, subdued nature of Chinese culture,” she says.
She disagrees with a rigid approach to Chinese elements. The hand embroidery that often features in her designs has long absorbed Indian, French and Russian influences.
Imagination and artistry abound in the fashion industry, but what makes a design stand out? Guo’s answer is simple – the soul.
She says her best designs are an expression of her life experiences: What lasts after what is transient has passed.
“A dress touches people’s hearts. It’s like an opera. You don’t understand the language. Still, you feel moved,” she says.