If the Met Gala red carpet is a contest, Rihanna was arguably Monday night's winner, thanks to the dramatic, bright yellow cape gown she wore for the formal occasion. Chinese couturier Guo Pei — who has two pieces showcased in the Met's "China: Through the Looking Glass" exhibit — designed the stunner, and while she hasn't had much name recognition stateside prior to this, she surely will now.
The Beijing-based Pei has been designing since the early '90s and started designing couture in the early '00s. She's dressed many Chinese celebrities and also designed an outfit for the 20o8 Olympic games, which were held in Beijing.
MAC fortuitously announced last week that it would be releasing a makeup collection co-designed with Pei, and to celebrate the collaboration while she was in New York, the brand invited editors to speak to her about the collection (more on that in September). Pei was poised and sophisticated, wearing a form-fitting red tapestry dress accessorized with some Kardashian-caliber eyelashes, and she obliged when I asked a few questions about the dress.
Pei didn't know that Rihanna would be wearing her gown until a week or two ago, she told me via an interpreter. In an interview with Vanity Fair Monday evening, Rihanna said she "found it online and it took her two years to make." The singer had apparently reached out to the designer's husband asking to wear the gown, and Pei admitted to me, "I didn't know very much about Rihanna!" Obviously, she figured it out.
The dress itself is from a collection Pei showed in 2010, and she told me no one wore it off the runway before Rihanna. "Only [she] could wear it. Not everyone can handle that dress," she said. "Only women who have the confidence of a queen could wear it." After putting it on, Rihanna herself told the designer, "It feels like a dress for the queen of China."
The dress took 20 months to construct – Riri rounded up a little bit — and is made from "lots of gold thread" and fox fur. Rihanna remarked that she had a hard time walking around in it, which isn't surprising, since Pei said the dress weighs about 55 pounds.
The original look included a corset and shoes, but Rihanna chose not to wear those. Pei said, "The cape should be enough. A fashion show is different from a red carpet because a fashion show is about a designer herself. What celebrities wear on the red carpet is a reinterpretation of that dress."
Pei is understandably excited about the attention. "It’s a good thing and I’m happy about it. It’s about my work being interpreted in a different way," she said. "It shows a different kind of beauty."
Rihanna still has the dress, but will return it to the designer soon. Here's hoping not too many people stepped on it.