“Crazy Rich Asians” Author Kevin Kwan Talks Couture with Harper’s Bazaar Magazine

Posted on August 21, 2018

“Crazy Rich Asians” author Kevin Kwan travels to Paris to meet the Asian style icons who are shaking up the staid world of couture for the latest issue of Harper’s Bazaar magazine.

 

 

 

Heart Evangelista

 

 

Feiping Chang

 

 

Rachel and Michelle Yeoh

 

On introducing the world to the world of Crazy Rich Asians and couture in Asia: “When my first novel, Crazy Rich Asians, was published in 2013, many readers were astonished to learn that in Asia there were women who dressed in couture from morning till night. They were particularly captivated by the character of Astrid, the beautiful heiress from Singapore who was always immaculately attired in the latest couture looks. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been asked whether women like Astrid truly exist, but I would always answer that, as a child in the late 1970s, I personally knew women who took the Concorde from Singapore to Paris via London twice a year for their couture fittings and that Queen Sirikit of Thailand had been partial to Balmain since 1960. I have pictures of my grandmother from the 1920s and ’30s in avant-garde dresses that looked like they could have come from the House of Worth or Lucien Lelong. She would never say if they were couture, but I do recall her telling me, “All my clothes and shoes came from Paris.”

On Kwan’s chic grandmother’s couture collection: “My grandmother’s behavior is similar to that of many Asian women who come from families who have dressed in couture for generations: They tend to be intensely private about it. The couture houses likewise remain as silent as the Sphinx, never discussing their clients, so a fascination remains. Who are these women who wear couture, who would buy a dress that costs more than a Range Rover?”

On socialite/actress Heart Evangelista: “The first show I attended was Schiaparelli. As I arrived at the Palais Garnier to meet Heart Evangelista, a swarm of paparazzi descended on us like locusts. Heart hails from a Filipino-Chinese clan that founded the Barrio Fiesta food empire and is married to Francis Joseph “Chiz” Guevara Escudero, a member of the Philippine Senate who was a leading candidate for vice president two years ago. But her illustrious social standing isn’t the only reason the photographers were clicking away: Heart also happens to be one of the most popular actresses in the Philippines. It didn’t hurt that in her round tinted sunglasses and sequined ombré dress, she looked like a modern-day incarnation of Audrey Hepburn. Images of her went viral before the fashion show was even over, with her fans furiously speculating about why she was in Paris and whether she might be in the Crazy Rich Asians film.”

On fashion influencer Feiping Chang: “Couture is at its essence about the fantasy, and Giamba really brings it to life,” Feiping Chang said in the car on our way to his show at the Pavillon Gabriel. Feiping epitomizes a certain breed of international Asian that is a hybrid of East and West. A native of Taiwan, she grew up in Sydney and Singapore before moving to New York, where she worked as an investment banker after getting a degree at NYU’s Stern School of Business. When a friend invited her to join her fashion investment fund in Hong Kong, Feiping jumped at the opportunity to connect with her true passion. “Fashion has always been in my blood,” she says. “My grandmother only wore Chanel and Escada, and as a little girl I would play around in her closet. She was super intimidating and had this mystical aura about her, so I always thought, ‘Wow, I want to look like her.’” Feiping’s arrival on the Hong Kong scene coincided with the rise of fashion influencers on social media, and before she knew it agents and brands were approaching her.”

On fashion icons, twins Rachel and Michelle Yeoh: “Rachel and Michelle Yeoh are descended from a distinguished Malaysian-Chinese family. Born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, the fraternal twins attended boarding school in England and have called London home for the past few years. In 2015, they had the honor of being the first Malaysians to debut at Queen Charlotte’s Ball at Kensington Palace, a historic ritual once reserved for Europe’s aristocratic families. Last year, the twins also made their fashion debut, commanding the catwalk in Dolce & Gabbana’s Fall 2017 show in Milan alongside the offspring of stars like Daniel Day-Lewis, Christie Brinkley, and Jude Law… “Rachel is really experimental and will wear whatever she wants. I make safer choices,” Michelle says. “I dress from the heart,” Rachel tells me over breakfast one morning, gesturing to her red tea-length Ganni wrap dress with black leopard spots. I found it charming that Rachel is equally comfortable wearing Ganni, a moderately priced Danish line, as she is wearing couture.”

On the photo shoot and experience with these women: “On our last day in Paris, the women took part in a photo shoot at the Ritz, dressed in their favorite looks from the shows. The Yeoh sisters seated among piles of macarons in the Maria Callas suite, adorned in Cartier jewels and delightful pink gowns by Fendi, reminded me of two young duchesses posing for a court portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Heart, standing on a balcony magnificently swathed in an ostrich feathered Armani Privé creation and Chopard diamonds, looked so stunning that she caused me to forget the view. But it was only when I saw Feiping in the garden, resplendent in the glorious pale-green tulle gown she had spotted on the Giambattista Valli runway, that I began to understand what couture was truly all about.”

On the power of couture: “The generations of women who have worn couture—whether they’re from America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, or Asia—have all experienced a universal connection when they put on a piece of couture and are enveloped in its artistry. The dress transforms them, imbues them with an indescribable power, and becomes an all-consuming love affair. As I caught Feiping’s eye during the photo shoot, she declared, “I never want to take this dress off.” Her Messika earrings glimmered in the sunlight, and as she posed—running, leaping, falling—on the crisp green lawn in an alleé of perfectly manicured trees, I knew exactly why. All of a sudden she was a butterfly, she was a sea anemone, she was a peony in full bloom, she was like nothing on earth. She was pure joy.”

 

Style Credits:
On Kevin Kwan: Fendi Jacket and Pants
On Heart Evangelista: Cape by Armani Privé from the Fall 2018 Collection | Earrings by Chopard
On Feiping Chang: Ball Gown by Giambattista Valli from the Fall 2018 Couture Collection | Earrings by Messika Paris
On Rachel Yeoh: Dress & Shoes by Fendi from the Fall 2018 Couture Collection | Earrings by Cartier
On Michelle Yeoh: Dress & Shoes by Fendi from the Fall 2018 Couture Collection | Ring by Cartier

[Photo Credit: Matthieu Salvaing/Harper’s Bazaar Magazine, vogue.com]

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