Asian designers are miffed at the ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ cast for their premiere looks

Premiere Crazy Rich Asians

Constance Wu and the rest of the Crazy Rich Asians cast has made the promotional tour for their romantic comedy something bigger and more substantive than a simple movie promotion. The film symbolizes a lot of progress for the Asian-American community and Asian actors and a lot more. It’s a powerful message that “white” is not the default for romance, for glamour, for comedy, for escapism. Constance is out here talking about how the film is “for anyone who has ever felt that they struggle to be accepted or they’ve been otherized.” Director Jon M. Chu has been saying: “This is more than a movie, it’s a movement.”

I am in full agreement with all of the above And I’d just like to point out that BECAUSE Crazy Rich Asians is such a “special case” and an outlier in the current era of Hollywood, some people expect the Crazy Rich Asians cast to be all Asian things to all Asian people. And that was never going to happen. But that’s how we get headlines like “‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Red Carpet Fashion Lacks Representation for Asian American Designers.” True story: only one female cast member of CRA wore an ensemble designed by an Asian or Asian-American designer to the LA premiere. And people are mad about it, I guess.

In these era of sociopolitical fashion messaging, one might have expected Constance Wu to wear a gown by an Asian or Asian-American designer. Indeed, several such designers rallied to support the film, and helped build buzz for its Aug. 15 release prior to the premiere.

“For as long as I can remember, I turn on the television or go to a movie, and [have] never been able to identify with the characters, because I never saw someone who looked like me. I’ve seen Asians typecast, miscast, or fully ignored. Until now,” Nepalese-American designer Prabal Gurung said July 27, when he hosted an advance screening of Crazy Rich Asians in New York City, alongside other key players in the Asian-American fashion community, including designers Joseph Altuzarra, Phillip Lim and Instagram fashion director Eva Chen.

Instead, Wu wore a silk fringe gown by British-based fashion house Ralph & Russo. “This movie is so important for so many reasons, and I felt that Constance should look both powerful and glamorous,” her stylist Micaela Erlanger told Vogue.

Henry Golding, who portrays hunky Nick Young, showed up to the premiere looking like Cary Grant in a light blue jacquard cocktail jacket by Hollywood’s leading man go-to Tom Ford. Playing feared matriarch Eleanor Young, Michelle Yeoh took to the carpet in a strapless dress by Italian designer Giorgio Armani, and Awkwafina chose a silk-satin pink gown by New York-based, Lebanese-American designer Reem Acra. The only female cast member to tap an Asian-American designer for her red carpet look was Gemma Chen, who wore a glittery dress by Oscar de la Renta, which is co-designed by Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim, who was one of the hosts of the New York screening.

Still, the missed opportunity to shine more of a spotlight on representation in fashion has some in the Asian-American design community fuming. “After seeing how powerful the Black Panther press tour was, and the cast using their platform in a visual way, addressing issues of representation … That’s what we would have loved to have happened with Crazy Rich Asians,” said one industry insider who asked not to be named. “Constance talks so much about representation but there is no show for it,” griped another.

Crazy Rich Asians cast members have been using their platform to talk about representation in Hollywood, in publications like THR and others; should they be obligated to use that platform to shine a light on representation in fashion, too? It’s an interesting question. On one hand, it would have been a headline-making boost to other Asian Americans who have forged a path in pop culture ahead of them. And for that, the fashion industry would certainly have been grateful.

[From The Hollywood Reporter]

This reminds me slightly of a minor kerfuffle when Black Panther was released: some people were trying to make the argument that the film was imperfect because it lacked any LGBTQ+ representation. To which I say the same thing as I say now: these films and these actors don’t have to be all things to all people. It would have been great to see LGBTQ+ representation in Black Panther. It would have been great if the Black Panther cast had all worn clothing designed by black, African and African-American designers. It would have been great if the Crazy Rich Asians cast had made a point of wearing stuff from Gurung, Lim and Jason Wu. But these casts and films don’t have to be all things to all people all the time, and we should stop expecting that. Especially when we don’t hold movies about white folks, made by white folks, made for white folks to the same diversity and representation standards.

'Crazy Rich Asians' Premiere - Arrivals

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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38 Responses to “Asian designers are miffed at the ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ cast for their premiere looks”

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  1. Jane says:

    Jeeze. People are looking for anything to discredit minority movies.

    • Really? says:

      Asian American designers are pretty well-represented in the fashion world (Alexander Wang, Vera Wang, Anna Sui, Jason Wu, Vivienne Tam, ect.). If the designers had wanted these stars to wear their clothing to the premiere, they should have sent free gowns to the stars’ stylists. Isn’t that how it works in Hollywood? Asians, especially Japanese designers, are well known in the fashion world (Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake, Kenzo, ect.). If the stars were feeling generous or fashion forward, they could’ve worn an unknown designer like Rihanna did to the Met Gala. Moreover, even though some of these designers are crying about representation, they don’t necessarily do the same for their own fashion shows. They will not necessarily espouse or hire more diverse models for their catwalks.

      • magnoliarose says:

        I was going to say the same thing. Asian American and Asian designers aren’t struggling in the fashion industry. Comme des Garçons by Rei Kawakuko is considered art by some and has been around since 1970 or so. Junya Watanabe is another very respected Japanese brand. All of the names above and Vera Wang was the go to bridal designer in the 90s. Asian designers have been head designers at some of the longest established design houses. Asian models are making a lot of breakthroughs in the last few years. It isn’t perfect but it isn’t an area where Asians are necessarily under represented enough to warrant a backlash.
        That criticism seems like someone just wants to tear them down.

      • Eva says:

        Exactly! Well-known, succesful Asian designers are not rare at all in the fashion industry. Asian models and actors are.

      • Aaliyah says:

        Yes. It’s never enough *Le Sigh*

  2. Millenial says:

    I get the point these folks are trying to make, but I’m just happy to support diversity in film the comeback of the rom-com.

    • Jan90067 says:

      I am as well! I miss the Rom-Coms. I am so sick of car chases and explosions, and CGIs. I want a good movie with a good (love) story, witty dialogue etc. I admit, I’m a huge Screwball Comedy fan (esp. films from the 40s); these reboots, remakes, and comic book movies just don’t cut it for me. I cannot wait to see this movie!

  3. Iknow says:

    And that’s the rub with movies like Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians. It’s such an anomaly that everyone wants a piece of it because they aren’t sure when and if they’ll ever get another chance to be that represented.

  4. Rapunzel says:

    The representation of the film does not need to extend to the film premiere. Why don’t people understand this very simple concept?

  5. Tania says:

    I saw this with my Mom on Wednesday, as I’ve been mentioning for awhile here!

    First, the movie theater was jam packed. We arrived just before 8 because when I bought our tickets we were pretty much the only ones showing up. Not the case. We had to hop over people to get to our seats and the movie started just when we were sitting down.

    And what a movie. It was amazing. Everyone played their roles to perfection. Obviously it differs from the books but I think the changes they made will keep the movies fresh if they go the sequel route and they should go the sequel route!

    I got misty when the 4 of them were riding in a car and having fun. I’ve done that so many times with friends and it just felt significant that you see minorities doing on screen what we’ve done forever that you’ve seen white people do on screen all the time.

    My Mom cried a few times and absolutely loved the movie.

    The audience was fully engaged and laughing and interacting with the movie and not in the irritating way but the fun way.

    Stay for the closing credits or you’ll miss something!

    As for the dresses: this is exactly the problem when you have 1 minority representing their entire race in a meeting. They become tokenized and expected to be everything to everyone. Just stop it. They already carry a big weight, it’s up to us to not throw anymore on them but help carry them. You can help carry them by going to see the movie! You won’t regret it.

  6. CAYYUUTE says:

    Who are these people that are getting mad? Is it from the Asian community? Cause I honestly don’t think they care, I don’t, as long as the movie is out I’m good. They look great! Have you seen asian stars in Asia? They are gorgeous. Finally Asians are being represented in a normal light. No sidekick, no kung Fu, no made up foreign accents, no made up language. Arg! I hate it when they get the language wrong.

  7. JanetDR says:

    Constance Woo’s dress is wonderful and was a great choice! I usually wait for Netflix, but am getting tempted to go see this on the big screen.

  8. mare lica says:

    Lebanon is in Asia, duh.

    • magnoliarose says:

      Americans think of Asia differently than Europeans. Asians to Americans are Eastern and South Eastern in origin. If someone means India they say it. The Asian part of Russia is rarely differentiated. Western Asian countries are called by their names or the Middle East.
      Clearly, this movie is centered around Eastern/South Eastern Asians.

      • omrita says:

        you are right @magnoliarose. Middle Eastern countries are somehow not considered Asian.
        Another example: Prabal Gurung, who is mentioned in the article, is from Nepal (a South Asian country). He is a Gurung, which is an ethnic group of Nepal, one of several ethnic groups who have what might be considered “Eastern Asian” features, they are Tibeto-Burman in origin. So it’s more complicated than people realise.

      • JaneFr says:

        I often think that americans seems to not understand the basics of geography: Europe is wasp white, Africa is black, Asia is han-Chinese….

  9. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    I’ll be pissed if I go see this movie, and they’re not serving seaweed chips, pea crackers, umaibo, green tea and frozen coconut water.

  10. M.A.F. says:

    I see both sides of the coin on this argument. Would these actors have had access to these designers before? I don’t blame them for wanting to jump at the chance. And yet I can see the argument of under-representation in fashion and using the film as a way to showcase Asian designers.

    Either way, I’m excited to see the film!

  11. TheHufflepuffLizLemon says:

    This should be a non-issue. Constance Wu is doing a ton of heavy lifting and speaking all the time about these issues-can she just look gorgeous for five minutes without criticism?

    I’m going with my girlfriends next weekend and I am STOKED! The clothes! The houses! The cars! The beautiful people! Akwafina!
    I’m sure the romance will be great, la la la. I just want to immerse myself in pretty for two hours and forget Trump is President and we’re in a complete free-fall as a country.

  12. a says:

    Don’t the fashion choices reflect the book’s aesthetic? Several of the story lines involve characters traveling to Europe for the latest fashion shows. I see the point of more inclusion of designers, but what’s going to last longer? The movie or the memory of what the actors wore to the premier?

  13. Mo' Comments Mo' Problems says:

    So…maybe they have not worn it for this big premiere (which could be seen as a missed opportunity, I guess…) but they did don it at some point during their press tour in major cities. Gemma Chan wore an outfit from Rei Kawakubo a few weeks ago. Plus, go look at their Instagram, they share outfit details pretty openly (albeit that disclosure issa standard).

    All that to say…they wear clothing from Asian and Asian American designers, but just because they didn’t wear it at the premiere does not mean it was an outright snuff. When Kaiser said, “…some people expect the Crazy Rich Asians cast to be all Asian things to all Asian people,” I felt that. :( :) #mixedemotions

  14. perplexed says:

    From the article:”“After seeing how powerful the Black Panther press tour was, and the cast using their platform in a visual way, addressing issues of representation … That’s what we would have loved to have happened with Crazy Rich Asians,” said one industry insider who asked not to be named. “Constance talks so much about representation but there is no show for it,” griped another.”

    Is the industry insider a white person? How many industry insiders are there in Hollywood that could be Asian? I’m wondering if the criticism is coming from a white person just to criticize Constance Wu for something or to undermine the film in some way.

  15. Adrien says:

    Ngl, the looks on the premiere night were not that exciting. It’s very Western. The ones who brought color and drama were the non major role actresses from SE Asia. C’mon guys, learn from the Cannes goddesses of the red carpet: Fan Bing Bing, Deng Chaoyu, Chinese popstar Chris Lee and Vian Zhang. The film is called Crazy, Rich Asians not Boring-af Asians. Be a little opulent next photocall red carpet.

    • holly hobby says:

      OMG Hahah That’s funny. I do remember when Michelle Yeo hit it really big with Crouching Tiger, she wore a dress from a HK designer. It was a big big deal then. I guess she decided Armani was better for her.

    • Janey says:

      I think that’s exactly the point that Constance Wu usually makes. Asian vs. Asian American is a very different thing. As you mentioned, those are SE Asian actors who have a different background entirely. So their choices come off as more “Western”, as more of them are more “Western”.

  16. holly hobby says:

    Constance Wu’s drapery dress is hideous. Why all that weird long fringe? Her stylist has poor taste. That’s all I got.

  17. Amelie says:

    I just finished the first book! It was enjoyable and fun though it was hard to suspend disbelief that a really wealthy Singaporean guy wouldn’t prepare his middle-class Asian-American girlfriend for how absurdly rich his family is and just expect her to assimilate with no problem. Most people prepare their significant others what their parents will be like before they meet the family. Also the fact that the girlfriend didn’t seem more curious about the fact why her boyfriend never talked about his family. It was very… unbelievable which is what the whole plot hinged on. And the book was slow moving and took forever for Rachel and Nick to actually meet Nick’s parents, it could have been a much shorter book. Also there were a lot of characters and I didn’t find the family tree in the book to be all that helpful, it was poorly structured. But it was interesting learning about Asia’s wealthy class which I know next to nothing about and it did make me want to visit Singapore (I have a good friend currently living there). Hope to see the movie eventually. A fun summer beach read!

  18. Sorella says:

    According to Lainey, this movie must and should be ALL things to everyone – so I’m surprised she is not mentioning the non-Asian fashion.

  19. Deedee says:

    Wu looked absolutely gorgeous. And there are plenty of premieres for them to attend.