Fresh from welcoming Apple’s Tim Cook to her Beijing studio last week, Guo Pei will extend her reach with next year’s launch of a secondary collection for specialty stores and the launch of a collaboration with Couturissimo.
And next month Guo Pei will touch down in New York to receive the Blue Cloud Award Sept. 27 at China Institute’s 90th anniversary gala.
The Apple chief executive officer (and the fashion world) first became familiar with her after Rihanna wore an elaborate canary yellow robe that Pei designed to the 2015 Met gala. He also got a look at her elaborate designs in the Costume Institute’s “China: Through the Looking Glass” exhibition last year.
During his much-publicized China trip earlier this month, Cook paid a visit to Pei’s atelier in Beijing. While many angle for just a minute of the American executive’s time, Pei spent more than an hour with him, discussing technology in relation to design. Aside from asking questions from start to finish, Cook met some of the artisans and examined the collection closely. The iPad Pro is just one of the Apple products that Pei and her team use regularly. The main purpose of Cook’s meeting with Pei was to understand how those Apple tools are put to use and what the end results are, Pei said during a phone interview. Cook plans to check in with Pei on his next trip to China, too.
Moreover, he wanted to know how Apple can try to improve technological features for designers and he encouraged Pei to offer suggestions as they arise. In fact, Guo Pei said she was impressed by Cook’s appreciation for the work but at the same time he kept asking what Apple can do for designers like her, perhaps in a partnership. “From beginning to end, he was very interested in what Apple can do.” she said. “He said the spirit of Guo Pei and the spirit of Apple are the same, [in terms of] going to the extreme and seeking perfection.”
“Of course, he is in love with couture and with fashion. He kept saying, “This, oh, I love so much,” referring to different designs and then offered specific details why, Pei said.
She also sensed “that he is a person who really appreciates couture.” Cook also asked very specific question looking for explanations about individual styles, what type of technology was used in the design process, the reasoning behind choosing various textiles, quality issues and the end results of various combinations. “The questions he asked were very professional,” she said, adding that he was most interested in the technology-advanced textiles prominently featured in the secondary collection that she plans to introduce for spring 2017.
Designed in the spirit of haute couture, that Couture Salon collection is meant to help build distribution in Australia, the U.S., France and other countries through department store and speciality store distribution. That addition, and the similarly timed capsule collection for Couturissimo means that Guo Pei will be staffing up her 200-person team in China and is building a new factory two hours from Beijing that will be finished next year. Couturissimo’s chairman Frank Cintamani is also founder and president of the Asian Couture Federation.
Pei has no business deal with Apple, and there was no discussion about Apple investing in the independently owned company. Pei said she “feels something is behind his studying to be more involved with fashion but it was not clear why.” An Apple spokesman said Monday that the company has no fashion-related initiatives to reveal at this time.
Some observers considered Cook’s most recent China trip — his first in three months — to be a goodwill one to try to infiltrate the increasingly challenging Chinese market. But he used the occasion to disclose plans for a new research and design facility that should open by the end of the year. Regardless of any incentives, Apple’s ties to fashion are numerous and extend beyond senior executives like Angela Ahrendts, Paul Deneve and Marc Newson. This spring Alexander Wang helped Apple Music launch its fashion channel and earlier this month Paul Smith provided his playlist. He, along with Wang, Calvin Klein, Alber Elbaz, Nicolas Ghesquière, Dries Van Noten and Sacai’s Chitose Abe have offered public support of Apple’s patent infringement battle with Samsung.