If you know two things about the new movie “Crazy Rich Asians,” you probably know these: 1. It’s the first Hollywood studio film about an Asian-American character’s story in over 25 years and 2. It features luxurious fashion.
Balenciaga, Dolce & Gabbana, Céline — all of those designers are name-checked in the film adapted from the book of the same name. After all, the “Crazy Rich Asians” novel was written by Kevin Kwan, a man who described his relationship with fashion this way:
“As my mom always says, I wasn’t born to shop; I was conceived to shop,” Kwan said at the “Crazy Rich” Hollywood premiere Tuesday night. (The movie hits U.S. theaters on Aug 15.) “I was basically (my mom’s) bag carrier all around the boutiques of Europe and Asia” before going to Parsons School of Design and later producing magazine shoots, he said.
And so it makes sense that the cast of the “Crazy Rich” movie would be dressed to impress at their Hollywood premiere. But several cast members took it a step further on the carpet for their landmark film: They wore ensembles by Asian designers as they posed for photos and gave interviews outside of the TCL Chinese Theatre.
Two of the movie’s stuffy “aunties,” Janice Koh and Selena Tan, used their outfits to pay homage to Singapore, their hometown and the setting of the movie. Koh wore a mandarin-collared black gown with flared sleeves by Singapore-based label Ong Shunmugam, and Tan rocked a navy and black frock by Singaporean designer Frederick Lee Couture.
Tan Kheng Hua, who stars as the mother of Constance Wu’s fish-out-of-water protagonist Rachel Chu, showed off a kimono dress from Singaporean designer Thomas Wee. Constance Lau, who is a Radio1 Asia personality in the film, wore – as she described it – “a take on the Chinese dress, what we call a Cheongsam in Singapore.” Her version was made by Singaporean designers of brand Time Taken to Make a Dress.
Jimmy O Yang, the wild Bernard in “Crazy Rich,” walked the carpet in a custom-made suit by Ge Wang of ESQ in Chicago. “I wanted to support the local Asian designers,” he said about his choice to rock the opulent jacket. (His watch, meanwhile, is a Cartier purchased on Ebay. “I’m still not sure if it’s real or fake,” he said.)
Gemma Chan, fashionista Astrid in the movie, said she’s been making a point to spotlight several different Asian designers on the “Crazy Rich” press tour. For the Hollywood premiere, she was in Oscar de la Renta. One of his protégés, Laura Kim, is Asian. “I am representing!” she said.
Nicos Santos, who’s a style expert onscreen, is not that dissimilar from his character in real life. “I used to work in retail,” he said at the premiere. “Neiman’s, Dior, Jimmy Choo… after my shift, I would go do (comedy) open mics.” Though Santos didn’t wear an Asian designer on Tuesday– he wore Paul Smith– he did find a different way to spotlight a designer that’s important to him.
“Because I used to work for Bottega Veneta, I did suggest that we drop that name (in my character’s dialogue), because it is one of the most luxe labels out there. And I wanted to give a shout out to my old employers.”
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