Rihanna's infamous 'omelette' dress appears in Guo Pei's NZ exhibition

The Yellow Queen by Guo Pei.
The Yellow Queen. Photo credit: supplied

Dresses spun from dreams and fashioned from fantasies grace Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki this summer, topping must-see exhibitions.

The expansive display of haute couture belongs to globally renowned Chinese designer Guo Pei, who's showing in New Zealand for the first time.

Gallery visitor experience manager Stephanie AuYeung said visitors' "jaws drop" at the dazzling designs, with some returning multiple times to admire them.

"Fashion is equally powerful in its ability to resonate with audiences, just as profoundly as painting, sculpture or moving image. Guo Pei’s couture works evoke powerful ideas around culture, identity, history and craftsmanship."

Among the 60 stunning gowns on show at Guo Pei: Fashion, Art, Fantasy 郭培:时装之幻梦 is Rihanna's infamous "omelette" dress from the Met Gala.

"I wanted to know if any could be bought, and Mum laughed. She said I'd have to be the next Rihanna first," said 11-year-old Lily Gates, at the exhibition for her birthday and spellbound by what she saw.

Guo Pei's beginnings in China were humble; she learned sewing at age two to help her ailing mother.

Every dress tells a story - silhouettes evoke hand fans or pay homage to blue-and-white ceramics.

Legend of the Dragon by Guo Pei.
Legend of the Dragon. Photo credit: supplied

"The culture of China is just like the blood that runs through my veins; it's my life," the designer is quoted as saying.

Fittingly, Guo Pei's work will welcome in the Year of the Dragon. On Saturday, February 10, there's a free family Lunar New Year Festival with a range of performances and activities to enjoy alongside the ticketed exhibition itself.

"Everything from lion dance performers to craft activities, storytelling sessions to a traditional Chinese tea ceremony," said Ms AuYeung.

For the fashion mavens, on Saturday, March 16, the gallery is hosting a ticketed, evening Fashion Fantasy Ball featuring exclusive performances from the Royal New Zealand Ballet and electric violinist Hannah Fang.

"There will be prizes for guests dressed to impress our fashion judges, so we look forward to seeing some fantastical and creative outfits come out to play!"

And if fashion isn't a usual interest? Well, it might be by the time people leave the exhibition.

Da Jin (Magnificent Gold) by Guo Pei.
Da Jin (Magnificent Gold). Photo credit: supplied

"We had a gentleman the other week exit the final room with happy tears in his eyes, even though he didn't consider himself much of a fashion enthusiast to start with," said Ms AuYeung.

"We hope the exhibition strikes a note with people no matter their background or existing knowledge going into it."

The exhibition runs daily until May 5. Tickets are $24.50 for adults and $20.50 for students, seniors and Community Service Cardholders. Auckland Art Gallery members and under-12s are free.

This article was created for the Auckland Art Gallery