By Leigh Nordstrom
with contributions from Lorelei Marfil
 on August 7, 2018
Constance Wu in "Crazy Rich Asians"

On a recent Thursday at the end of July, instead of making a beeline for the Hamptons a slew of designers and editors were crowded into New York City’s Metrograph theater for an early screening of “Crazy Rich Asians.” The film has drawn immense interest from the fashion industry for both its representation of Asian-Americans and some rather fabulous clothes.

Leading the pack was Prabal Gurung, who was joined by Phillip Lim, Joseph Altuzarra, Laura Kim, Carol Lim and Dao Yi Chow to celebrate the movie’s arrival.

“It means visibility, representation, the way we want our community to be shown: beautiful, flawed, like any other human beings,” Gurung said ahead of the screening. “For the longest period of time we haven’t had this representation in this big way, with a mainstream Hollywood film come out. So it means a lot to us. I’d seen the movie, they showed it to me, and I got everyone, the editors and designers, together, because we all felt like it was time for us, as an industry, to come together.”

That’s where the movie is finding its sweet spot: it’s equal parts a film of empowerment and representation and visibility, and a light romantic comedy, one filled with fun characters and fabulous fashion.

The film’s costume designer, Mary Vogt, pulled looks by Dior, Valentino, Chloé, Carolina Herrera and Gurung for the filming.

“Constance [Wu] was involved in practically every scene in the film,” Vogt says. “It was very important to her how the character was presented. And she was, like, the most grounded character in the movie. She comes into this world of old money and then new money. So, in Singapore we had two very different looks. Peik Lin [Awkwafina]’s family was new money and so they were much more Versace, wore brighter colors, a little more gold, and a little more new-money looking. And then Michelle Yeoh [who plays the boyfriend’s mother, Eleanor], her character’s family was more old money, so, it was richer colors.

“But Constance was sort of the grounded character, so she was more Ralph Lauren, more American looks and not such bright colors. She was very involved in her look, absolutely, and she looks distinctly different from everyone else in the film. Kevin felt that she was very grounded, that she wore light colors, wore lots of linen when she went to Singapore. That she looked like an all-American girl, a little bit like a fish out of water going into this other world. So, it was like a little bit like Alice in Wonderland. She was just a little on the outside of this other group, and that’s why Kevin felt that she was like the most grounded character and, you know, it’s a comedy, but she was more serious than everyone else in the film.”

“I think the industry is definitely excited about this,” says celebrity stylist Micaela Erlanger over the phone. Erlanger began working with the film’s star, Wu, for her press tour for the film, with their first project together being Wu’s WWD cover shoot. “I think it’s an important moment in history and in film for so many different reasons, especially in light of it being an all-Asian cast. But also I think people [in the fashion industry] are so excited because there is such an emphasis and focus around luxury. And this is such an exciting opportunity and a perfect platform to really just have fun. Fashion should be playful, it should be whimsical; it shouldn’t feel contrived. And I think this is an opportunity for us to really explore and have fun.”

Whimsy, it so happens, is exactly the tone Wu is going for in her new approach to red carpet dressing.

“I think I associate that with surprises that have a lot of joy in them,” she says of the word. “And I like to try different things that aren’t necessarily expected. And this movie that we have coming out has a lot of joy in it, so I felt like that’s sort of the appropriate kind of word that would describe what I’m looking for in what I wear on this press tour.”