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How the Costume Designer Behind Disney+’s ‘American Born Chinese’ Used Fashion to Blend Fantasy and Reality

  • June 2, 2023

Joy Cretton used looks from AAPI designers for a different kind of authenticity.

<p>Disney/Carlos Lopez-Calleja</p>

Disney/Carlos Lopez-Calleja

The Monkey King. Guanyin. Guan Yu. They’re names synonymous with Chinese legend, which seem to blend mythology and history for a unique take on storytelling. But because those are the standard bearers of Chinese narratives, they’ve been interpreted again and again, with a new Journey to the West seemingly popping up every year (not always to critical acclaim) and both live-action and animated versions of the trials and tribulations of these gods, goddesses, warriors, and scholars offering every generation their own version of the stories.

The latest is Disney+’s American Born Chinese, an adaptation of the ultra-popular (and National Book Award-nominated) 2006 graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang. When the show, which premieres today on the streamer, was announced with a cast that included newly minted Academy Award winners Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan, as well as Oscar nominee Stephanie Hsu, fans were ready for a brand-new take on these beloved characters — and Disney didn’t disappoint. Lush visuals, action-packed set pieces, and (of course) a deeply touching story that offers up a take on the Asian American experience all come together for a one-of-a-kind comic book movie that’s anything but your typical blockbuster.

<p>Disney/Carlos Lopez-Calleja</p>

Disney/Carlos Lopez-Calleja

Costume designer Joy Cretton, who also worked on Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, didn’t just rely on custom-made creations (though there are plenty of those, too) to bring these giants of Chinese culture to life. Instead, she used amazing pieces from designers like Prabal Gurung and Phillip Lim (both listed as costume consultants on the project) to bring a sense of authenticity to even the most out-of-this-world look.

Below, see how Cretton brought these characters to life, using everything

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