Emmy award-winning journalist, producer of the upcoming Netflix documentary on Martha Stewart and host of The Atelier with Alina Cho writes about the people, places and things that catch her eye. Alina Cho interviewed Guo Pei through Amanda Peeters before the opening of Guo’s first major exhibition in a museum.
The interview is titled “The Designer Behind Rihanna’s Most Famous Met Gala Gown Has a New Exhibit“. You may find the excerpt of the interview below.
GUO PEI (via translator): First of all, I’m so happy to be able to have this exhibition at this very location.
I love the architecture there, and I love the collection in the museum. I worked together with the museum curator and the staff for almost three years before we were able to launch this exhibition.
ALINA CHO: Wow.
GUO PEI: It covers almost every era of my work.
It’s very symbolic of my work.
I love the curation.
It’s amazing. I sense the recognition. I sense that people understand me more as they see me more. And so, I am very excited about that.
ALINA CHO: For people who aren’t familiar with your work, what do you hope they take away from this exhibit?
GUO PEI: Sometimes, I see visitors, after they visit my designs, they cry.
ALINA CHO: Wow.
GUO PEI: There was one time, the CEO of the Bowers Museum in [in Santa Ana, CA], told me that [one person] came 26 times to see my collection. I couldn’t understand why that person [would] come 26 times. It’s obviously that the previous time wasn’t enough to look at a specific design. Yes, my dresses and designs have a lot of details. And the details [are] what mark me different from others.
ALINA CHO: It’s true.
GUO PEI: When the audience comes to my exhibition at the museum, they may not completely understand the intent of an artist, in this case a designer such as myself. They may feel something that’s different from my original intent, but it doesn’t matter. My purpose is to be able to touch someone, [and if I can do that], then I have already reached my goal.
THE RIHANNA “OMELET” DRESS
ALINA CHO: I think it’s safe to say [photos of] that gown you made for Rihanna at the Met Gala in 2015 broke the internet.
It was so breathtaking. Take me back to that moment. How did it happen?
GUO PEI: The omelet dress that Rihanna wore…
ALINA CHO: The omelet dress.
GUO PEI: It stunned everyone, including myself. I want to talk to you about how she found me. This particular dress was made long ago, and I showed it in Beijing in 2010. Then all the photos were published on the internet. So, it must have been the internet, that’s how she found it. At the time, I was not very focused on global news or anything other than China. And so, I did not know who she was.
ALINA CHO: What?
GUO PEI: I heard that she was a singer.
ALINA CHO: Oh my God.
GUO PEI: I thought, what was she going to do with my dress? Sing with it? I was quite curious as to what type of environment she was going to wear that dress in. And I wasn’t too sure about the red carpet, either — the Met Gala.
ALINA CHO: Wow.
GUO PEI: But since I was going to New York at that time, I thought it would be best for me to bring it. Perhaps when Rihanna sees it in person, how heavy the dress is and how big the dress is, she may want to reject it. [But] she liked it, and she wore it on the red carpet. I was there at the time. When she showed up, I heard all the murmuring and then the crying in the audience, the excitement. I thought, “Wow, that was successful.”
ALINA CHO: That’s for sure.
GUO PEI: I have such gratitude towards Rihanna.
Legion of Honor, located in Lincoln Park, is one of the three Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. The curator Jill D’Alessandro of this exhibition artfully placed Guo Pei’s designs next to the European paintings, sculpture and decorative arts that are highly complimentary in mood, shape and color .