"There was no one to learn from—no designers, no brands, no information," Guo Pei says of her early days making clothes in China, before it became a sought-after luxury market. The 44-year-old visionary has since blazed a trail, building her Rose Studio into a fashion powerhouse whose eye-popping, gravity-defying creations are so elaborately crafted they caught the attention of Lady Gaga—who found them too difficult to wear. ("Chinese sizes," the designer shrugs.) Reinterpreting both Eastern and Western motifs and employing 300 hand embroiderers, Guo is best known as the dresser of choice for China's star-studded CCTV Spring Festival Gala, at which her fashions are seen by some 700 million viewers.
"Creation, just like mountaineering, is a process of endlessly pursuing a new height. On haute couture's stage, mediocrity is unendurable."