Can ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Surprising Release in China Spark a New Round of Luxury Fever?

Crazy Rich Asians, the blockbuster film that took the U.S. market by storm this summer, finally received the green light from national film regulators there to screen in China. The namesake adaption from the best-selling novel by Singaporean-American writer Kevin Kwan will be released November 30.

The approval seemed a surprising move by the Chinese government. Warner Bros., the producer of Crazy Rich Asians, applied for the license to show it in China before it was released in August but failed to hear back, according to a report by The Hollywood Reporter. The long wait for approval for the first major Hollywood film to ever feature an all-Asian cast made many analysts believe Beijing was not comfortable with the film’s “very un-socialist celebration of decadence and ostentatious wealth.”

It is worth noting that the timing of the approval of Crazy Rich Asians came only after China’s luxury spending showed signs of a slowdown in recent months. The release of the third-quarter financial earnings by leading luxury players like LVMH and Hermès indicated the growth rate from the Chinese market has cooled a bit as the country undergoes a brutal trade war with the United States, which has led to the depreciation of the Chinese currency.

The characters in Crazy Rich Asians live an exceptionally privileged lifestyle in Singapore, from first-class flights to shopping sprees to parties on private islands, and don a slew of ultra-expensive outfits while doing so, many from luxury brands including Elie Saab, Alexander McQueen, Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino, Richard Mille, Giambattista Valli, and Missoni.

Swanky displays of wealth are generally frowned upon by the Chinese government, as evidenced by the earlier nationwide anti-corruption campaign and a recent crackdown on celebrity ultra-pay.

Back in 2013, a Chinese film called Tiny Times (小时代) directed by popular writer Guo Jingming, was fiercely criticized by state media People’s Daily for excessive use of luxury goods after the film became hugely successful among the country’s younger generation. The film depicts the modern lives of young Chinese and explores how they deal with relationships, friendships, and career development.

According to Jing Daily’s report at the time, a massive number of luxury brands, including but not limited to “Ferragamo, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Prada, Bottega Veneta, Marc Jacobs, Moncler, Armani, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Pelle Moda, Neil Barrett, Hermès Birkin, Christian Louboutin, Valentino, BMW, Bentley, Rolls Royce, Texture, Sketch Red, and Apple,” appeared in the film. That was perhaps the first time a majority of Chinese consumers heard about these Western luxury brands. Since then, Chinese consumers have become responsible for more than one-third of the global sales of those brands.

Given that, Crazy Rich Asians’ arrival in the mainland Chinese market is very good news for luxury brands.

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