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Issue 17 Out Now

From Screen To Wardrobe: Exploring the Fashion Influences of Netlix's "Beef"

Netflix’s latest series, “Beef,” has captured audiences' attention with its thrilling plot and emotionally charged performances. The show, created by Lee Sung Jin, follows the lives of two Angelenos, Danny (played by Steven Yeun) and Amy (played by Ali Wong), whose lives take a wild turn after a road rage incident. While the series delves into themes of revenge and personal turmoil, it also uniquely explores the diversity within the Asian American experience, portrayed through the characters’ wardrobes. In this article, we will analyze the wardrobe choices in “Beef” and how they effectively capture the essence of Angelenos through clothing.

The Mind Behind the Wardrobe: Costume Designer Helen Huang

Behind the stylish looks of the characters in “Beef” is the talented costume designer Helen Huang. With an Emmy and CDGA Award, Helen is no stranger to creating visually captivating costumes that enhance storytelling. Helen’s fashion editorials and commercials career led her to scripted television and film, where she found her true calling as a costume designer. Her love for art and storytelling shines through in her meticulous attention to detail crafting the wardrobes for the characters in “Beef.”

Crafting Characters Through Clothing: Amy and Danny’s Contrasting Styles

One of the standout aspects of “Beef” is the stark contrast in styles between the two main characters, Amy and Danny. Amy, played by Ali Wong, has a wealthy background and owns an upscale boutique. Her wardrobe is characterized by a minimalist and creative aesthetic, focusing on neutral colors like whites and creams. Helen Huang intentionally avoided bright colors in Amy’s wardrobe to reflect her controlled exterior and inner aggression. Amy’s sophisticated taste in clothing is evident in her choice of boutique designers like Cawley Studio and Heru.

On the other hand, Steven Yeun portrays Danny as a handyman who dresses more casually and nostalgically. Danny’s style reflects his reluctance to change and evolve, as he often wears thrifted and outdated clothes. Helen Huang drew inspiration from Asian men she observed growing up, including her stepbrothers and father. Danny’s wardrobe comprises work shirts, fleeces, and layered long sleeves. By dressing Danny in clothes that reflect his past and resistance to change, Huang effectively portrays his character’s journey throughout the series.

George and Fumi: Artistic Expressions Through Clothing

Another fascinating aspect of the wardrobe in “Beef” is the portrayal of George and Fumi, played by Joseph Lee and Patti Yasutake, respectively. George, Amy’s husband, exudes a relaxed and artistic vibe through his clothing choices. Helen Huang wanted to challenge the stereotype of Asian men’s fashion by showcasing George as stylish. She selected pieces from designers like John Elliott and Nanushka to create a fashionable look representative of subcultures within the Asian community.

Fumi, the widow of a famed artist, expresses her artistic identity through her chaotic and avant-garde wardrobe. Helen Huang wanted to avoid the stereotypical portrayal of older women on screen and fully embraced Fumi’s unique style. Fumi’s wardrobe features flowy patterned dresses, vintage pleats from Issey Miyaki, and bold color choices. Huang sourced pieces from unique designers to stay true to Fumi’s character and emphasize her status as an art piece herself.

Sourcing and Styling: The Process Behind the Wardrobe

Bringing the wardrobes of “Beef” to life involved an extensive sourcing and styling process. Helen Huang carefully selected clothing items aligned with each character’s personality and background. For Amy and George, who have more refined tastes, she sought out boutique designers and luxury online retailers. Fumi’s wardrobe included unique designer pieces sourced from The RealReal. In contrast, Danny and Paul’s wardrobes were curated from mall brands, and thrift finds to reflect their more casual lifestyles.

Due to budget constraints, purchasing and returning items became a routine for the wardrobe team. Online retailers like Farfetch, Ssense, and Mr. Porter were essential sources for the show’s wardrobe, but their frequent returns sometimes led to temporary bans from these retailers. Despite the challenges, Helen Huang’s dedication to authenticity and attention to detail allowed her to create cohesive and visually appealing wardrobes for each character in “Beef.”

The Symbolism of Costumes: Telling Stories Through Clothing

In “Beef,” the costumes play a significant role in storytelling and conveying the characters’ emotions and journeys. The wardrobe choices are carefully selected to reflect the characters’ personalities, backgrounds, and internal struggles. Amy’s white and cream palette represents her controlled exterior, while Danny’s outdated clothes symbolize his resistance to change. Each character’s wardrobe tells a story, giving the audience visual cues to understand their motivations and experiences.

For example, Amy’s quirky knit cap, worn in the opening scene, adds a touch of optimism and alertness to her laidback outfit. The hat serves as a punctuation mark, catching the viewer’s attention and setting the tone for her character. In contrast, George’s loose-fitting sweaters convey his relaxed and artistic nature, while Fumi’s avant-garde wardrobe reflects her identity as an art piece.

The Impact of “Beef” on Asian Representation in Fashion

“Beef” breaks new ground in Asian representation, not only in its casting but also in its portrayal of fashion and style. Helen Huang’s collaboration with an all-Asian cast and crew allowed a deeper exploration of the characters’ wardrobes and their connection to different Asian subcultures. By showcasing the diverse styles and fashion sensibilities within the Asian American community, “Beef” challenges stereotypes and promotes a more nuanced understanding of Asian fashion.

The series presents Asian men, like George and Danny, as style aficionados, debunking the notion that Asian men lack fashion sense. Through their wardrobes, “Beef” showcases the international influences and unique subcultures that contribute to the Asian fashion landscape. This representation is essential in breaking down barriers and inspiring individuals to embrace their personal style without conforming to societal expectations.

Visual Storytelling

The wardrobe in “Beef” goes beyond mere fashion choices; it is a form of visual storytelling. Costume designer Helen Huang skillfully captures the essence of Angelenos through clothing, portraying the characters’ personalities, backgrounds, and journeys. From Amy’s minimalist and controlled palette to Danny’s nostalgic and casual style, each choice contributes to the overall narrative and character development.

“Beef” delivers an intriguing plot and compelling performances and offers a fresh perspective on Asian American fashion and representation. The series breaks free from stereotypes, showcasing the diversity and complexity within the Asian American experience. Through the wardrobe choices, “Beef” celebrates individuality, challenges norms, and highlights the power of fashion as a storytelling tool.

As we continue to see more diverse and authentic representations in film and television, the wardrobe in “Beef” stands as a testament to the importance of fashion in storytelling and its ability to reflect the multifaceted nature of our society.


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