Over The Moon With Guo Pei

Have you seen ‘Over the Moon’?

This striking Netflix film – animated by Vancouver’s Sony Pictures Imageworks – was inspired by the Harvest Moon Festival and the legend of Moon Goddess Chang’e. ‘Fueled with determination and a passion for science, a bright young girl’ –  Fei Fei, played by Cathy Ang – ‘builds a rocket ship to the moon to prove the existence of a legendary Moon Goddess.’

In a talented cast that includes Sandra Oh, Margaret Cho, Ruthie Miles and Ken Jeong, Hamilton’s Philippa Soo plays the nine foot Moon Goddess, Chang’e. In creating Chang’e, the Vancouver Sony team had one particularly thorny challenge: how to bring animated life to the extraordinary couture gowns created by renowned Chinese fashion designer, Guo Pei?

‘I designed some elements of ancient Chinese royal dresses in Chang’e’s costumes,’ Guo Pei tells Variety Magazine, ‘such as wide cuffs, long tails and a stand-up collar like the tail of a phoenix. These elements all strengthen the dramatic tension and contrast her image as a god and as a human being. The patterns come from the precious ancient Shu collections in the [Sanxingdui] Museum, including the Han brocade discovered in Mawangdui and the bronzeware discovered in Sanxingdui.’



“When I started studying design in 1982, no one knew that clothes were supposed to be designed,” said haute couturier, Guo Pei, in a 2017  interview. “My parents and neighbours didn’t understand why clothes need to be designed. There are only a few types of clothes, they would say. There were fewer than three types of collars in China: lapel and small lapel. That’s it.”

When Pei graduated she wanted to create stunning gowns. “But my boss at the time always said: ‘No one wants it. Design something we can sell.” But Pei had a hunch that people would want artisan-crafted gowns and, in 1997, opened her own Rose Studio. Soon, she was creating couture gowns for high profile women in Chinese media, film and music. Pei is known for incorporating beautiful elements from traditional Chinese design. “Royal embroidery was lost over a century ago when the Chinese royal family was dismissed,” Pei said. “So right now we are trying to bring it back.”



Pei’s grandmother had always told her that “nobody should wear yellow,” as it is the colour of emperors. Yellow is Forbidden  is the name of the 2018 Pietra Brettkelly documentary chronicling Pei’s rise as a designer. Yellow is also the colour of the two-years-in-the-making Pei gown that Rihanna wore to the 2015 Met Gala. The yellow cape had a sixteen foot train, 50,000 hours of embroidery and a weight of 25 kilograms.

As Rihanna stood on the Met stairs, people in North America and Europe started talking about Pei too. Some were raving, some were meme-ing, but they were talking.

As she had dreamed, Guo Pei was finally invited to join Paris’ exclusive Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. She is also the subject of a stunning new Rizzoli book, Guo Pei Couture Beyond, with photography by Howl Collective. Her clothes feature in fairytale shots based on mythical stories, such as Samsara, Garden of the SoulOne Thousand and Two Nights or The Legend of the Dragon.

From October  to January, 2018 we were lucky to host  Guo Pei: Couture Beyond  at the Vancouver Art Gallery. This forty piece collection was curated in collaboration with Atlanta’s SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film. It included the Rihanna cape and selections from some of Pei’s most  revered collections from 2012 to the present. Take a look at the Atlanta showing below …

Guo Pei Detail @ VAG 2018


Howl Collective

Header: Philippa Soo plays Chang’e in Over The Moon on Netflix.


Fine Art For The Green Fairy


Jamie Evrard 2021

Elizabeth Newton

Elizabeth Newton