By: Keith Lutz, Staff Writer
A star of the English stage and screen, Gemma Chan’s breakthrough role in the smash hit Crazy Rich Asians introduced the world to the London born and raised actress for the first time in a big – and it looks like we haven’t seen the last of her yet if the reception to her turn as Astrid in that film is any indication. A veteran of the Drama Centre London, Chan is also a trained lawyer and once practiced for a firm after studying at Worcester College, University of Oxford. She decided to leave the legal practice behind and pursue her passion for acting, a decision she has not regretted since. Gemma Chan has not only gone on to become a much sought after actress but also a fashion icon as well.
Some of her first major roles began as supporting roles in the popular television series Doctor Who. Appearing in the special “The Waters of Mars,” she then went on to appearances in the drama Secret Diary of a Call Girl, Fresh Meat, and Bedlam. Her career really began to take off after appearances in films such as Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, JK Rowlings’ Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Michael Bay’s Transformers: The Last Knight. But it was her role as Astrid Leong-Teo in Crazy Rich Asians that truly put her star on the map and has everyone paying attention ever since.
It probably comes as no surprise that her turn as Astrid in Crazy Rich Asians has everyone paying attention to what she wears as well. For viewers of that film, the previous sentence probably needs little explanation but, for those of us that haven’t seen it, let’s elaborate a little bit: Crazy Rich Asians is basically a high fashion extravaganza. Every brand you can imagine, every luxury good, every extravagance that could possibly fit on the silver screen. The film was called Crazy Rich Asians after all.
Since the film, Chan’s style has riffed on that theme but has also adhered to her own values or, as PopSugar explains, stylist Rebecca Corbin-Murray tries to keep the spirit of Crazy Rich Asians alive by honoring diversity.
She told Vogue, “I was keen to use this opportunity to put a spotlight on Asian creativity. I’ve loved doing that and the designers have seemed to appreciate it.”
Speaking of her collaboration with stylist Rebecca Corbin-Murray, Chan continues, “We wanted [my wardrobe] to reflect the values of the film. We tried to design it in the spirit of diversity and inclusivity.”
One mainstay for Gemma Chan is London designer Mary Katrantzou whose bold prints, are a particular favorite. Even as she attempts to incorporate more Asian designers, she’s not shy to stick with British staples like Burberry and Jimmy Choo.
On working with Gemma Chan, Rebecca Corbin-Murray said, “You can have a stunning outfit, makeup and hair, but if you don’t understand the look or feel comfortable, the pictures will show it. Aside from being drop-dead gorgeous, Gemma shares my vision of fashion, which allows for something greater.”
In fact, her ability to combine looks got her named 2018 Style Muse by Harper’s Bazaar Australia. One reason for this nomination is Chan’s incredibly deep bench of outfits. When it comes to occasion, few are as prepared as Gemma Chan’s closet.
And this phenomenon was on full display during the press for the Crazy Rich Asians press tour. From Oscar de la Renta to throwback noir-inspired outfits, Chan often outshone the star of the film and caught the attention of many in the fashion press with her bold, daring, and sometimes playful approach to fashion choices.
A review of her recent sartorial selections reveals this spirit in full force. For example, at the Captain Marvel premier, Chan chose to don a color-blocked red Brandon Maxwell two-piece outfit with trousers and a fabric train. For the American premier of the film, Chan wore a Ralph and Russo with asymmetrical pleated top and holographic fringed trousers reports the Standard. The contrast between these two looks is striking yet the constant between them – Gemma Chan’s unflappable elegance – makes it all work.
When it came to the Oscars, Chan was an explosion of hot pink ruffles in a Valentino gown that went on for days. With ruffles from the collar on down, the look was one that recalled the era when women wore more restrictive clothing but the overall effect of the garment was one of understated comfort and demurity. Never has high fashion looked so comfortable, but this kaftan-esque certainly looked like it could be worn all night long. This much was confirmed by Gemma Chan because, as the Standard reports, she was allegedly able to sneak snacks into the garment to eat during the very long ceremony.
Once the Golden Globes rolled around, it was back to Valentino, but in teal and a much more restrained look. The Valentino gown with split skirt detail was not as striking as the hot pink piece, but it was also very classic Hollywood. The dress was still dramatic, but less overflowing and all encompassing. As if to tie off the ends of a themed sequence of outfits, Chan’s choice for the Screen Actors Guild Awards was a muted pink asymmetrical skirt with ruffled, scalloped fabric cinched at the shoulder and anchored at the waist with a black sash. This look, by itself, summarizes the previous choices and emphasizes her choice elements such as ruffles and statement pieces.
Chan’s star is only expected to grow in luster over the coming year, and for good reason. Her roles on the screen might have secured her a place in the hearts of audiences, but her effortless ability to make any look stunning and elegant has the attention of more than a few fashion houses. Combined with her magnetic, infectious personality, we expect that Chan will have a major starring role in the worlds of cinema and fashion for years and years to come.