News ≫ Jewellery designer Yi Guo on Annie Leibovitz, Myanmar sunrises and Sri Lankan gems

Jewellery designer Yi Guo on Annie Leibovitz, Myanmar sunrises and Sri Lankan gems

Jun 15, 2016
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From styling stars for magazine shoots to catching a sunrise in Myanmar, Shanghai-born designer Yi Guo tells Daniel Kong about the highlights of her life so far

Tell us about working as a stylist in New York. “My first job out of college was as a fashion assistant at Vanity Fair. Working with celebrities was a little nerve-wracking at first but I learned to deal with it. They may be recognised all over the world, but they really are just regular people. Working on the [annual] Hollywood issue shoots with Annie Leibovitz was always the most fun … they were very well researched and well produced, with tons of celebrities in one photo [for the cover fold-out]. We would have all these celebrities in one room, which made me almost want to pinch myself.”

You lived in New York for more than 20 years. What are your impressions of it? “It’s full of secrets, with new venues that pop up every day. That’s what’s great about it – the creative class build new things every day. My favourite [neighbourhood] has to be the Lower East Side, which has grunge and cultural elements mixed together.”

Why do you source gems in Sri Lanka? “I travelled to Sri Lanka for my agent’s wedding and stayed at a boutique hotel in a southern coastal town called Mirissa. The country is gorgeous – the ocean, the colonial villas, the gentle Buddhist culture and, of course, the gem shopping … I loved it all. It’s home to some interesting stones. They have some of the world’s best sapphires as well as an amazing gemstone called alexandrite, which changes colour depending on the light.”

You were born in Shanghai, left at the age of eight and returned at 29, as a style editor for Vogue China. What was that like? “I never would have guessed my life would take such a turn. Initially, I had culture shock. The working style is really different, but I’ve learned to go with the flow. Despite all the chaos, things get done, the traffic flows and the people keep moving.”

What’s the most memorable place you have visited? “Myanmar was a very spiritual trip for me. It was like stepping into the past, with endless pagodas and the sweetest people. One special experience was taking a 5am donkey ride to a high pagoda to catch the sunrise. It was worth the effort; it came up in vivid crimsons, bright oranges and pinks.”

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