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The Styled Side: why SoCal is celebrating China's Guo Pei




Rihanna wears a gown by Chinese designer Guo Pei at the
Rihanna wears a gown by Chinese designer Guo Pei at the "China: Through The Looking Glass" Costume Institute Benefit Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 4, 2015 in New York City.
Mike Coppola/Getty Images

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Among the biggest names in fashion like Oscar de la Renta and Marc Jacobs, here's another you should know: Guo Pei.

She is one of top China's top designers, one of the only few to break into the international fashion scene and now also the celebrated guest at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana this weekend.

Guo caught the world's attention when Rihanna wore her 55-pound canary yellow dress to the Met Ball in New York City last May.

The gown's three-meter long train may have been the butt of jokes for looking like an omelette or a pizza, but the fashion world was stunned by the look and the artisanship that went into it; it was handcrafted by one woman over the course of two years.

"The dress was THE thing to talk about at the ball," says Michelle Dalton Tyree from Fashion Trends Daily. "Guo Pei really opened the fashion world's eyes to China as a high-end fashion creator."

For being a hot designer, it may be surprising that Guo is the center of a showcase in Santa Ana instead of New York or Milan. However, Southern California's large Asian-American population and its reputation for being a tourism hotspot for Chinese visitors means it's a great place for Guo to build up her American fan base.

"We're all courting the international consumer and certainly the Chinese consumer is at the top of that list," says Debra Gunn Downing, the executive marketing director at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa.

The luxury shopping center has shopping directories and a web site in Mandarin, for example. The Chinese are also the world's largest consumers of luxury goods, making up 20 percent of the entire global market.

The Bowers Museum sees its collaboration with Guo as a way to bring breathtaking exhibits highlighting Chinese culture to the U.S.

The gala and fashion show for Guo is on Saturday, November 14th, and the exhibition of her dresses – including the gown that Rihanna wore – will be on display through January.