Ultimate Luxury: 7000 Hours for One Dress!
Last night I had the privilege of attending Chinese Haute Couture Designer Guo Pei’s Legend of The Dragon Fashion Show and Chinese Bride Couture Exhibition. In fact, describing the event as a ‘fashion show’ is almost an insult as the dresses on display were so painstakingly hand sewn and crafted over (quite literally) thousands and thousands of work hours that they were some of the most astounding works of art I’ve ever seen. Guo Pei’s dresses are so labor intensive that it takes a team of hundred embroiderers and seamstresses several years to make an entire collection and so to witness one of her ‘moving art theater performances’ was truly special.
When nostalgic emotions from my past life as an Imperial Warrior arise from my deep subconscious I often think of, and thus am a big fan of Guo Pei. Seeing her collections, I’m instantly thrown back into the days of Imperial China where Emperors ruled the Middle Kingdom (China) and their dragon robes and court attire was the ultimate in luxury. These one-off pieces would have been constructed by the country’s leading artisans and Imperial Tailors under threat of death if they weren’t absolutely perfect and worthy of being worn by the Emperor who was mandated by heaven to rule. As Guo Pei once said to me “if you screwed up a robe for the Emperor they cut your head off!” and she wasn’t joking!
I published an interview with Guo Pei in February which you can find here (part 1) and here (part 2). She has an infectious energy and is a delight to speak with. I also published an article about a 1997 fashion documentary called Mao’s New Suit in which Guo Pei was the main star.
It took a long time for me to understand the significance of haute couture within the fashion industry and I suspect a lot of people really don’t understand it. Perhaps in France and Italy (I’m not from Europe) haute couture is an industry all to itself and people just ‘get it’. However, in the rest of the world I tend to hear an all to often comment of “who’s ever going to wear that?” when it comes to couture.
The point of haute couture is not always to be worn. It can be just conceptual and total fantasy. Couture shows creative ideas and inspiration from designers, bits and pieces of which then trickle down into actual ‘wearable clothes’. As a comparison, you rarely hear someone say, “who’s ever going to drive that?” when it comes to concept cars because people understand it’s just a concept. It’s the same for in a way for haute couture.
For those who think that China doesn’t have any of its own luxury brands, please see the photos and you may reconsider.