When word got out that Kevin Kwan’s best-selling Crazy Rich Asians was going to be made into a film, a Ralph Lauren rep offered to send samples to the production company. The costume designer, Mary Vogt, expected two or three dresses: the company sent more than thirty outfits. Other designers also lent clothing: the cast wears outfits from Dior, Missoni, Marchesa, Elie Saab, Diane von Furstenberg as well as Asian designers Shiatzy Chen, Lisa Von Tang, and Carven Ong.
Do these designers correspond to the clothing described so minutely by Kwan in Crazy Rich Asians? Not so much. The clothing favored by Astrid Leong, the novel’s “goddess,” are more subtle. Among the outfits she wears are a yellow vintage Madame Grés gown (“from the early period), an Ann Demeulemeester gauzy black tunic dress, a Marjorelle-blue sleeveless halter-neck dress, and Alexis Mabille white peasant top and grey silk pants accessorized with long dangling VBH earrings. Always ahead of trends, Astrid was the first in her set to wear a the Antwerp 6 and Louboutin shoes. A more insouciant look is the pairing of a vintage St. Laurent Smoking jacket with batik shorts. In the movie Astrid (Gemma Chan) is dressed more conventionally and wears a Dior pale pink dress in her first scene.
Eleanor Young is the other stylish character. The mother of Nicholas Young (Singapore’s most eligible bachelor), Eleanor always manages to outshine her peers. As Kwan describes her look: “She had always felt that wearing a stiffly tailored designer dress of this short (i.e. Chanel). . . only served to reinforce one’s age. Eleanor’s style was a deliberate one–she preferred the more youthful, trendy clothes that she found in the boutiques of Hong Kong, Paris, or wherever she happened to be traveling, as this achieved three goals: she always wore something distinctive that no one else in Singapore had, she spent far less money on clothes than the rest of her friends, and she looked at least a decade younger than her real age.” in the film Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh), too, wears more recognizable designers–Elie Saab, Carolina Herrera Armani privée, and Diane von Furstenberg.
Interestingly, Kwan doesn’t name designers worn by the novel’s heroine Rachel Chu. Rachel wears a sleeveless brown linen dress to the Tyersall Park party and a midnight blue off-the-shoulder gown festooned with freshwater pearls to another party but Kwan doesn’t reveal the name of designer. This absence of detail separates Rachel from the luxury-loving Singaporeans of the novel. In the film Rachel’s (Constance Wu) wardrobe is a mix of American and designer lines–Gap, Miu Miu, Marchesa and Ralph Lauren.