It’s almost too neat a theory, given China’s fashion pedigree and her lifelong exposure to art. She remembers sitting on the floor as a child, coloring in elephants with Jean-Michel Basquiat: “It seemed perfectly normal to me and Max. The thing about Jean-Michel is that he was very comfortable with children, possibly more than he was with adults—and we obviously had no idea of his celebrity. He was just a friend.”
That easy peace with her privileged childhood is shared by her brother, Maximillian, the least visible member of the family—which he likes to joke is the key to his happiness. An avid photographer, writer, and foodie who helps run the restaurants under his father’s aegis, Maximillian recalls living above Mr. Chow in New York. He says that although he and China were not allowed to look down on the restaurant from the top of the spiral staircase that led to their apartment, they found a way to ogle the crowd below. “My dad was one of the first people to have a video camera in a restaurant,” he says. “It was set up like a Bond-villain camera that you could control with a joystick. So I would sit up there and mess around and pretend I was launching missiles at people. Every once in a while, I’d pan across, and my father would be looking directly at the camera. You knew then that it was time to go to bed.” The trick, adds China, was “to move the camera ever so slowly, so he couldn’t hear it.”
Despite the fact that Maximillian shares his dad’s passion for cinema, he says that the collaboration on the Voice for My Father script will most likely be their last. “We have figured out that working creatively together is probably not the best idea,” he says, with what sounds like diplomatic understatement. “We butt heads a little too much. When it comes to art or film, it’s difficult for us to back down from each other. It’s the same with jokes at dinner: Neither one of us will ever laugh at the other one’s joke. We sit there stone-faced.”
EVA CHOW IS RECLINING on a Pierre Chareau sofa in the family’s gold-leaf-paneled living room, which is dominated by a towering John Chamberlain sculpture that all but reaches the 28-foot-high ceiling. Works by Sir Peter Blake and a Roy Lichtenstein interpretation of Monet’s Haystack share pride of place above the mantel.
The LACMA gala that has consumed Eva’s life the past few months is only weeks away, but if she is stressed, she masks it well. A former designer with a successful namesake label in New York that she shuttered after the birth of Asia, in 1994, Eva looks the picture of comfort in an inky Lanvin peplum top, tapered black jeans, and ballet slippers—an image that brings to mind a comment her good friend Alber Elbaz, the Lanvin designer, made about her fashion sense never seeming de trop.