Let them wear ... what? Guo Pei conjures Marie Antoinette in couture show of beautifully crafted but over-the-top gowns

Chinese designer had no truck with season’s trend for more casual, practical haute couture, showing a richly crafted collection made for excess and unlikely to be seen on many red carpets

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 January, 2017, 8:15pm
UPDATED : Friday, 27 January, 2017, 8:20pm

Ever since pop star Rihanna helped propel Guo Pei into the international fashion limelight by wearing her outlandish yellow couture dress to the 2015 Met Gala, the Beijing-born designer’s name has been on everybody’s lips.

Guo Pei, who designed that Rihanna dress, makes Paris couture splash

Known for her eccentric designs, Guo Pei recently became a guest member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture and has established her catwalk shows as one of the highlights of the Paris haute couture calendar.

Perhaps surprisingly, this season Guo presented a historically themed and over-the-top collection, at a time when her peers have moved to create more casual and wearable couture as they respond to changing times and the demands of a younger clientele.

Chinese designer Guo Pei headlines Singapore Fashion Week

Held at the Conciergerie in Paris – a prison during the French revolution that was later converted into a chapel – Guo’s spring/summer 2017 catwalk show featured gowns made for excess and inspired by figures such as Marie Antoinette. France’s infamous 18th century queen was embodied by 83-year-old model Carmen Dell’ Orefice, who bestrode the catwalk in an ethereal, scarlet robe handcrafted from metal-woven silk.

Needless to say, this collection was more about perpetuating Guo’s the-show-must-go-on ethos and parading outlandish creations than catering to the demands of clients seeking outfits that allow more freedom of movement and a seamless switch from daytime to evening.

Having said that, even if the clothes she showed are more likely to be used as costumes in a Game of Thrones episode than be seen on the red carpet, the designer achieved one goal: showcasing her devotion to craftsmanship. Examples of outstanding craftsmanship included corded, three-dimensional embroidery and knotwork, delicate beadwork and custom-made metal ornaments adorning exquisite fabrics in romantic, warm colours and iridescent copper hues. For a brief moment it felt as if Marie Antoinette had been reincarnated.

One thing is certain: Guo Pei knows how to tell a good story.