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China's famed designer Guo Pei debuts largest US exhibition at Legion of Honor

China's Famed Designer Guo Pei Debuts Largest US Exhibition at Legion of Honor
China's Famed Designer Guo Pei Debuts Largest US Exhibition at Legion of Honor 02:09

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- A mesmerizing exhibit where high fashion meets fine art has landed in San Francisco.

It's called Guo Pei: Couture Fantasy. It features dozens of dazzling works by the famed Chinese designer, who is lauded as the country's first couturier. 

The exhibition is already shaping up to be among the museum's most popular - drawing pre-pandemic sized crowds.  

"It's truly inspirational," said Jill D'Alessandro, curator of costume and textile arts at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. "Guo Pei has two bodies of work - one is made to measure for her clients. But what we're showing here are fantasy pieces that she creates for the runway, and she presents them like theater."

Guo's exhibit of her artistry at the Legion of Honor is the largest in the U.S. The designs are opulent, extravagant, and larger than life. 

Guo, who currently lives in China, has taken her exquisite creations from the runways of Beijing and Paris to San Francisco. Couture Fantasy showcases more than 80 pieces from the last two decades of her career. 

She is perhaps best known in the U.S. for the show-stopping moment in 2015 when Rihanna ascended the steps at the Met Gala in a striking, ornate cape. 

Guo was born during China's Cultural Revolution in 1967. During that time, her grandmother was forced to destroy her treasured clothes, jewelry and possessions. 

"The clothing was grey or brown or olive green, there was no embellishment, but she was so inspired by the stories that her own grandmother would tell her about her life during the end of the Qing dynasty, the last imperial dynasty," said D'Alessandro. 

Guo's work and creativity represent a rebirth of China. It preserves Chinese techniques and weaves in Western influences. 

One iconic piece on display called "Da Jin" took more than 50,000 hours over two years to complete.

"I've seen work by many other couture houses in Paris, but the embroidery and the extra dimension to what she brings to her work is incredible," said visitor Tessa Weale, a tourist from London. 

Weale visited the Legion of Honor with Julian Turner, both casual clothing designers from the UK, on Tuesday. 

"It's beyond fashion or art, it's really the endeavor of it," described Turner. 

"We were also really excited to celebrate an Asian designer and a Chinese designer, as we are on the Pacific rim, and we have a large Asian American population, so we're looking at expanding the canon, looking beyond the west and exploring global narratives," added D'Alessandro.

Guo Pei: Couture Fantasy runs through September 5th at the Legion of Honor.

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