The Making of a Met Gala Dress: Actress Zhang Ziyi on Her Carolina Herrera Look

May 5, 2015   |   Written by Rebecca Johnson

No stranger to the red carpet, actress Zhang Ziyi, a BAFTA and Golden Globe nominee for roles in films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Memoirs of a Geisha, first wore Carolina Herrera to the Cannes Film Festival in 2013. “I loved it so much I wanted to work with her again,” says Zhang, who began the process with the designer three months ago on her Met Gala dress over long-distance conversations and weekly deliveries of sketches and fabric samples from Carolina Herrera’s New York City headquarters. “It was always exciting to receive courier packages from her,” says the Beijing resident.

The dress they eventually arrived at—a custom ivory mikado gown with a fabric appliqué skirt—had roots in both traditional Chinese dress and the modern runway. “We started with a cheongsam-inspired collar as an ode to this year’s Met Gala theme. I used a hand-stitching fabric treatment to create a stylized bouquet of branches surrounding the ball skirt,” says Herrera.

For that skirt, Herrera beautifully broke with cheongsam conventions, eschewing its lean lines in favor of a voluminous silhouette in a nod to a look in her own fall 2015 collection—“a dramatic structured skirt,” the designer says. “With all the Met’s splendor, you must have a wonderful gown to make a big entrance.”

And indeed Zhang did, resplendent in her ornate all-white dress, “a shape I’d never tried before.” “She’s given the qipao [cheongsam] a gorgeous red-carpet feel,” exudes the actress of the resulting look—one which no doubt portends future design sketches exchanged between Beijing and New York City and more elegant big entrances to come.