Life is like climbing a mountain; some people stand up and want the world to see themselves, and some want to see a different world. Guo Pei is very much the latter. She said that when you do not expect to be in the forefront, you will enjoy the process. If you set a strict target, the process will present more restraints, or turn into a pressure eroding your life when you cannot handle the pace, bringing more physical and spiritual suffering. So, she is someone who does not set strict goals or expectations in life. Instead, she has one path to undertake: indulging in beauty, creating beauty, spreading beauty, focusing on every step of the moments. When Paris haute couture circuit called, when museums competed to exhibit her creations, when Time listed her name on the 100 Most Influential People… she found that while you are standing on top of the mountain to see the world, the world also sees you.
Guo Pei is unlike any other; how would you describe the characteristics of your own creations? I am someone who loves life very much, and very emotional. I hope life is full of love, warmth and sunshine, and my creations share the sentiment. Beauty is the outlook of being happy and feeling blessed. I truly love beauty; even if I am a carpenter, or a florist, or a salesman, I will still pursue beauty. It is a warm sunshine from your state of mind.
Compared to ready-to-wear, designers have maximum freedom with haute couture; however, freedom is always relative, and so, what are the restrictions in haute couture? Freedom should also be contained. You can get the most of freedom when reflecting the limitations. In making clothes, when you have less room for creativity, the turnover may be quicker and easier; and when it has the greatest room for freedom, you are also dealing with greater demands and costs from various angles. To be successful in your pursuit of inner freedom and spiritual pleasure is to satisfy your heart’s desire, even when you might lose something else while gaining the freedom you want. It took me almost ten years to establish the foundation for freedom of artistic expression and freedom of the soul.
Beauty should be an indiscriminate right; how do you feel about haute couture becoming an exclusion for a lot of people? Haute couture is actually very welcoming, and I never discriminate my guests; often, people exclude themselves. I think every girl has at least one dress that accompanies her all her life, carrying all her happiness, all her emotions. Many people might have spent a lot of money buying useless things; you might open the wardrobe and see not one piece of clothing is worth keeping. For example, girls nowadays usually have dozens of jeans when they don’t actually need all of them, and end up wearing only a few pairs over and over. Jeans also have cultural value; it is better to buy a genuine pair. You can wear them until they show signs of natural wear and tear, yet you will hate to part with them, because they have become a part of your life, a very meaningful jeans. This is a life attitude which I sincerely hope people will recognize.
What do you think about junior designers? What are their strengths and difficulties? Growing with time is a part of happiness, and the phrase “Time makes a hero” resonates with me. I am very grateful to my generation, for giving me the much needed opportunity to grow together with the Chinese fashion industry. If I am part of the young designers in the current generation, it will be difficult for me to say that I will be where I am today, or if there is a future for me. It is a crowded field with strong competition and everyone has very little space. I have strong sympathy for them; I want to remind them to slow down and focus on long-term growth, for the next 10 years, and then 20 years, 30 years, and even 50 to 60 years, instead of rushing the pace for the first five to ten years; we might be able to do it in the past, but for the young designers today, it might be very difficult for them to do so. Their advantage is having a high starting point; as soon as they graduate, they might have reached the equivalent of my ten-year career, perhaps in twenty years they will surpass thirty years of my experience. However, it could be very difficult for them to stay for two decades, and the progress of time also means that the requirements to be in the industry are getting harder.
Would you share simple tips or rules for those of us struggling with fashion? What to wear depends on the environment. For work, I suggest wearing a relatively formal dress, presenting a strong character no matter your position. The best option is to have a slight structure on the outfit, nothing too loose-fitting. For social occasion, you need to know what message you would like to convey, what kind of person you want to be in the eyes of others. Many people think that what they wear is their own business, totally unrelated to other people, while in fact, it influences how people define you, and who will approach you. If you want to enter a certain circle, you must first have the same image that they have before catching their interest, and then slowly the conversation and relationship develop.