Life and death are never just religious propositions or philosophical thoughts, it is also a domain which artists never stop exploring and expressing. Approaching middle-age, life and death are no longer just poetry chants. With the loss of beloved ones, you wonder what it will be like when the journey ends. Since death is inevitable, I prefer to imagine it as a dream, an alternate universe parallel to this world, where everything returns to its original state of true pureness and beauty. It is the start of a mysterious journey.
On July 3rd, Guo Pei presents her Autumn/Winter 2019/20 Haute Couture collection at the Beaux-Arts de Paris. Under the magnificent glass dome of the Cour Vitree hall, a whole new universe emerges. Here, light and darkness co-exist, angels and Satan sit next to each other. Humans are no longer the masters of this world. Monkeys sit on the king’s throne under the guidance of prophets.
For this collection, the treasured material of the Philippines, pineapple hemp fabric, is widely used as a backdrop of a world never seen before by mankind. Pineapple hemp fabric has been in existence for over 400 years. It is extracted from the leaf fiber of pineapple plants, and put through seven manual processes such as spinning, rinsing, drying and knotting. It is light yet tenacious, retaining its original state nature has intended for it to be. Through its natural ivory color and translucent delicate texture, pineapple fabric provides the perfect look and feel to the Grecian-style silhouettes of the collection. Like goddesses in Greek mythology, exuding pure and sacred wisdom.
Expressing limitless creativity through her use of pineapple hemp fabric, Guo Pei explores various sewing techniques to juxtapose the world she imagines – through hand folded pleats – she expresses the sense of architectural space, through hot stamped fabric – she restores the remnants of ancient Greek scrolls, through exquisite silk embellished with radiant pearls, feathers and Swarovski crystals – she depicts the elegance of genies and goblins.
Crows play an essential role in Guo Pei’s Alternate Universe. At the border between life and death, crows are the messengers and prophets of wisdom, leading the way and bringing insights between the universes for his compatriots in the forms of hand-embroidered beetles, spiders, butterflies and bees. Guo Pei’s signature three-dimensional embroidery is once again in the spotlight. Combined with the use of Lafite embroidery techniques, the designer conjures up vivid images of these creatures, layered with rich emotion and life-like texture.
Drawing inspiration from life’s beauty, lifelike animal and insect images feature heavily on this season’s pieces, from the monkeys of Aesop’s Fables, to the poisonous snake which lured Eve to steal the forbidden fruit, to herds attracted by the melody of Apollo’s golden harp. The dresses’ silhouettes are interweaved with elements from various civilizations.
Using the concept of ‘invisible form’ from ancient Greece, Guo Pei restores the elegance of goddess with fluid lines and drapes. On the other hand, she references designs from the ancient European royal courts – from the Gothic aristocratic Poulaine shoes to the exquisitely crafted Ralph collar of the Baroque era, to the iconic Panier oval skirt of the Rococo era. Guo Pei uses these dramatic styles together with the use of silver, light gold and light grey colours to paint the pure beauty she sees of this universe.
Behind each arch in this realm created for the show, is a meditative journey guarded by devils and angels. Here, gods have human nature, humans have animal nature, plants and animals are given godhood – an alternate narration of reincarnation.
In the silence, the crows cry hoarsely, fluttering their wings and flying away. Along the silvery river, a colorful flower bud floats as a woman closes her eyes peacefully. No one knows if she is leaving or returning as death is just another state of rebirth.