Show me the fashion trends of the day and I’ll show you the movie from which it came.
Cinematic films are to popular culture what meatballs are to spaghetti and every now and then there is a page turner.
Crazy Rich Asians - a film based on the 2013 novel by Kevin Kwan and which opened in cinemas Friday - follows wealthy heir Nick Young (played by Henry Golding), who invites Rachel (Constance Wu), his Chinese American economics professor girlfriend, to his friend’s wedding in Singapore to introduce her to his intimidating, traditional mom Eleanor Young (Michelle Yeoh). He fails to mention he is crazy rich.
In Singapore’s there is new money and old money, a story told visually by costume designer Mary Vogt.
The Young family is considered old money: they have a taxidermy Tiger in the entrance hall of their home.
Matriarch Eleanor is understatedly elegant. There is a burgundy Valentino gown with a high neckline and flowing cape, a sheer sequin Elie Saab dress and an emerald green long-sleeve Diane von Furstenberg blouse.
In a scene with Nick’s cousin Astrid we learn that even their bling is the real deal.
Astrid by the way is glamour personified, not just for the Dior and Diane von Furstberg, but as fashion’s modern muse. (The world’s next big supermodel is surely Asian. As Napoleon so famously said Let (China) sleep, for when she wakes she will shake the world.)
On the other hand Rachel’s friend Peik Lin’s (The Goh clan) has a home gilded in gold with inspiration from among other things, Donald Trump’s bathroom.
They wear Versace.
Peik Lin’s pj look: silk Stella McCartney dog-print shirt and matching track pants are case in point.
Class and age is crudely and easily differentiated through differing accents. The comedy in it is somewhat disturbing; but this is afterall a film about love across a socially stratified society.
While the film stays safely within the parameters of classic hollywood narrative, much can be inferred from the fashion.
Whether the film’s director intends to talk to "Made in China" and the nations reputation for factory-farming fashion or not, one can presume that it uses the lifestyles of these two families to highlights the tensions between Kardashian-style ostentatious, living - consumerist, loud and even vulgar - with measured and refined taste that is synonymous with Chinese value systems.
In Eleanor’s word’s the value "what lasts". There is a rare, blooming flower, the tradition of dumpling making, and indeed rare pearls and classic clothing.
The tension between the two, all the while beautifully pictured, is sublime to watch, whether it registers or not.
But then there’s our heroine, Rachel who goes from cute vintage and Gap to a baby blue Marchesa gown. The honesty - indeed the appeal - in her simplicity is apparent from the get go.
So for all the fashion in this film, statement or not, I’d see it again just for the style.