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Pieces of China, Crazy Rich Asians Author Kevin Kwan, 8.13.20

Pieces of China, Crazy Rich Asians Author Kevin Kwan, 8.13.20

Pieces of China is an online series using objects to tell the story of China.

In the season 1 finale, we explore the cream silk Christian Dior dress, worn by Chinese actress Fei Fei Sun, that perfectly captures the emergence of the Super Rich Chinese onto the global stage.

Kevin Kwan, author of the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy and a new book, Sex and Vanity, shares his escapades with China’s newly minted billionaire taitais as they quietly snap up haute couture baubles at the Paris fashion shows.

Selected Quotes from Kevin Kwan:

I think the dress was a turning point for Christian Dior and John Galliano, the designer. He was sort of obsessed with blue and white Chinese porcelain. So if you see, he’s taken the classic Dior dress, the hourglass shape dress that created what they called the new-look back in the 50s that made it so revolutionary. He’s added another layer with this underline of this beautiful Chinese porcelain just peeking through. So it hints at China, but it isn’t an overt chinoiserie look, but I think it pretty much encapsulates what has happened to fashion and luxury these days.

Extravagance went underground for a minute. For one minute, the government really clamped down. There was this wave where they wanted to root up all the corruption, and they didn’t want low-level politicians or party members to spend millions and flaunting it, but it’s back again with a vengeance. It’s a very proud new money. These are self-made people who made fortunes overnight, and they are proudly expressing themselves, and China wants its people to get rich and prosperous. They want people to spend and feed that engine of luxury. The minute the pandemic was over in China, spending returned like never before. They are doing better right now than they did even before the pandemic began.

I was astonished because I went to the couture shows back in 2018 in the spring and was astonished to see so many elegant exquisitely dressed couture clients from China in the audience sitting in the front row of the runways. You’d used to see European princesses, New York socialites, Nan Kempner, and people like that on the front row. Now it’s a whole new generation of mainly Asian style leaders. What happened is they fell in love with couture, but now they’ve really made it their own. Fashion has become such a means of expression in China. Everyone wants to look original and have their own tastes. The taste level and connoisseurship are so high, and they are demanding the best. They know what to look for, and it’s not about the status symbol embossed on the dress anymore. They want a more personal sense of luxury.

The Chinese are so proud of Guo Pei. She’s become an icon in China because she put the look of Chinse luxury on the international map. When Rihanna walked up the red carpet on the costume institute in that amazing Ming yellow embroidered gown, the world noticed Guo Pei. Beyond that, what’s really changed is that the rich Chinese used to flock to Paris, London, Milan, and New York. They always felt that they could get the best there, and that’s changing. Luxury is now coming to China. All the big brands are building the most amazing boutique flagship stores that just outdo everything we’ve seen.

Sex and Vanity is about the clash between old money and new money. This time I am satirizing old money, New York. I’m looking at the east coast wasp establishment and the collision with the new tech fortunes coming up. It’s very well represented in a love triangle. That’s where the excitement begins, and hopefully, people will enjoy it.

Full Video of Pieces of China with Kevin Kwan

Explore our Pieces of China Season 1 Playlist: