Couture compatriot

By Zhao Xu ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-06-27 08:17:24

Couture compatriot

'China style' comes in myriad forms.[Photo/China Daily]

Guo Pei is no stranger to embroidery.

In fact, she may be a master in the field going by the world headlines surrounding a flaming yellow cape dress she designed for rock star Rihanna, who wore it to a high-profile New York event in May. But even so, until recently, Guo probably hadn't gauged the depths to which her artisans travel to make her garments look good.

A few months ago, during a visit to her workshop in Beijing, the 48-year-old Chinese fashion designer was alarmed by the repeated sound of snapping thread. Her team members there were engaged in exquisite needlework on a dress she created.

The thread in question was made from 12-karat gold and imported from Japan. While gold lend its splendor, its metallic nature made the thread very brittle.

"It seemed like people all around me were having a thread crisis," Guo recalls the day to China Daily. "'Threads break so easily!' I said aloud. And one of the women working there just looked at me and said, 'It's always been that way. Didn't you know?'"

But Guo knows that breaking thread is also considered a sign of good craftsmanship. On an average, her embroiders rethread their needles 300 times a day. Her artisans have been at the heart of her successful business - Rose Studio - for the past 20 years, she says.

And paying homage to them is a stunning golden evening gown on show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. For an entire month, some 100 embroiders are said to have labored on the dress, which has been part of an exhibition titled China: Through the Looking Glass since May.

The ongoing display, which is largely an attempt to offer glimpses of how China has long been a muse for the Western fashion world, includes two of Guo's creations and a one-shoulder dragon-embroidered dress by 41-year-old Beijing-based designer Laurence Xu. The remaining less than 200 exhibits on the same show are works of non-Chinese designers.

But the presence of even two prominent homegrown designers at such a cultural fair shines a light on ongoing efforts by China's fashion industry to find its own identity amid rapid changes in society.

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