The Fashion in Joy Ride Is Just as Audacious as the R-Rated Movie

Stephanie Hsu, Sabrina Wu, Ashley Park and Sherry Cola
Ed Araquel/Lionsgate

Joy Ride starts with a premise close to our hearts: the overachiever, the free spirit, the oddball and the popular one embark on an adventure-filled road trip—on planes, trains, automobiles, plus a busload of hot athletes and an attempt to fly private—to find themselves and each other. But in Adele Lim’s raucous directorial debut (working title: Joy F*ck Club) the figurative and literal journey revels in R-rated raunchiness, gross-out physical comedy, an abundance of clever subversion of Asian stereotypes.

“The four leads are just so different,” says comedian Sherry Cola, who plays body and sex positive artist Lolo. “This film is just proving that Asians are not a monolith by any means, from our personalities to our wardrobes.”

Joy Ride first introduces us to Lolo and Audrey (Ashley Park), an adoptee from China, who became friends in elementary school as the only two Asian American kids in a Pacific Northwest suburb. Now a successful lawyer, Audrey needs Lolo’s help translating Mandarin Chinese to close a big time deal in Beijing—where the former’s birth mother might also be. Lolo’s K-pop devotee cousin Deadeye (Sabrina Wu) is a last minute addition on the trip, where they’ll join Audrey’s college bestie, Kat (Stephanie Hsu), who’s thriving as a soap opera star in China. Lolo and Kat initially clash, as equally tenacious rivals for their shared best friend’s attention—and through their distinctive styles.

To distinguish and illuminate the leads, costume designer Beverley Huynh looked to different stages in her own life, like a stint in finance, for Audrey. The ambitious attorney, who’s deft at code-switching among her loving white parents, her also-white bro colleagues and Lolo, wears natty blazers by Smythe and Massimo Dutti. “The architectural binds of all the blazers reflect her stubbornness and the coolness of how she has to be, with a strong head on her shoulders,” says Huynh. As Audrey lets down her defenses to explore and embrace her heritage, her dark corporate gear evolves into lighter hues and soft textures.

Now, living in a guest house (or shed) on Audrey’s lawn, Lolo is stuck in a stage of arrested development. But, she expresses her unrealized potential through creating phallic-themed sculptures and wearing a vibrant mix of prints and textures, vintage-inspired silhouettes and paint splatters on her sneakers.

“Beverly and I were on the same page about Lolo being very loud, in your face, and very unapologetic, eclectic and colorful in the way she presents herself,” says Cola. Landing in Beijing, Lolo confidently gives Audrey a lay of the land while wearing a blocked shirt under scarf-print overalls, both from Anthropologie, and a felt boater hat that recalls the actor’s own penchant for wearing a fedora. “I actually have the hat in my closet,” says Cola, who also co-stars in Randall Park’s buzzy directorial debut, Shortcomings.

Lolo’s sweet, awkward cousin Deadeye makes her surprise appearance at the airport appearing in pink cat-ear headphones (presumably with “Dynamite” on repeat) and an American Apparel t-shirt customized with Sandra Oh’s iconic 2019 Golden Globes acceptance speech quote: “It’s an honor just to be Asian.”

Kat on Emperor’s Daughter set, Deadeye, Audrey and Lolo in their plane outfits

Ed Araquel/Lionsgate

But, at first, Huynh found that costuming Wu (who uses the pronouns they/them), as Deadeye presented a bit of a challenge. “Once we put Sabrina in anything that was a little bit quirky, a little bit silly and a little bit patterned, they ended up looking too cool,” says Huynh. So, to illustrate Deadeye tentatively navigating real friendship beyond the virtual K-pop community, Huynh looked to her own “awkward” teenage years, finding comfort in “giant hoodies” and billowing Y2K jeans. “There is a certain confidence that comes from being someone who hides in their clothes,” says the costume designer, who dressed Deadeye in BDG denim and Dickies trousers. “It still looks cool, just oversized.”

In Beijing, the trio heads straight to the set of Kat’s period costume drama, The Emperor’s Daughter, where she’s filming scenes with her hunky yet chaste boyfriend Clarence (Desmond Chiam). “Kat was honestly the most fun to dress because there are delusional instincts that come with her, which I just love to play off of,” says Huynh.

“I want her to be sexy, but still covered up,” says Huynh, depicting Kat’s “version” of herself as a demure celebrity girlfriend. But for a night out at the club with Audrey et al, Kat lets loose as her real self, in a teal Victoria’s Secret bondage bodysuit under an Eleanor romper and Mackage blazer. “We literally taped and sewed her into [the bodysuit],” says Huynh.

Stephanie Hsu, Sherry Cola, Ashley Park and Sabrina Wu

Ed Araquel/Lionsgate

To visit Lolo’s and Deadeye’s extended family in the countryside, the four embark on an eventually disastrous train ride. For the jaunt, Kat embodies the “Ava Gardner idea of herself” in a navy Ted Baker dress, a Versace belt, a noticeably pink mbyM trench and impractical Gucci stiletto booties. Her wide-brim floppy hat from Nordstrom, statement sunnies by Gentle Monster and a silk scarf around her neck look even more conspicuously inconspicuous. “‘I don't want you to look at me, but please look at me,’” says Huynh, imagining Kat’s intentions. “She's just a walking contradiction.”

Ed Araquel/Lionsgate

But the real disguise—or disguises—come later, during an elaborate ruse involving Deadeye’s deep-pocketed BTS Army connection (Johnny Wu) and a private jet. The four slo-walk into an airplane hanger masquerading as fake K-pop group Brownie Tuesday—“Sassy, Cutie, Lisa… Lisa 2”—also supported by backup dancers and screaming faux fans. “I took a lot of influence from Blackpink and Girl Generation,” says Huynh, about the coordinating pop star outfits that go viral on Lolo’s live stream.

Kat’s knee-high Taro Ishida patterned boots, puff-sleeve blouse and pencil skirt was “a direct reflection” of her celebrity persona, explains Huynh. Audrey's ruffly harness, leather beret and thigh-high fishnets give her lead singer vibes—and celebrate Park’s Tony-nominated musical theater talents. Lolo, with her gold harness, mesh top and pink Aldo combat boots, and Deadeye, in customized silver Adidas joggers and Nike sneakers, feel like heightened versions of their established aesthetics.

Stephanie Hsu, Sherry Cola, Ashley Park and Sabrina Wu as fake K-pop group Brownie Tuesday

Ed Araquel/Lionsgate

But, how did the four, after losing their luggage and passports, fund this sensational outfit makeover? “The BTS Army hooked it up with these fly outfits!” says Cola.

Well, the K-pop community’s generosity goes deeper. Ultimately, the four downgrade from a PJ into the bowels of a freighter boat to reach their destination. To rough it on that leg of their odyssey, the group copped pieces and merch from their backup dancers and fans. If you look closely, Kat’s cropped terry Urban Outfitters hoodie and Deadeye’s acid yellow and black Forever XXI sweater feature Brownie Tuesday logos.

The girls on the bowels of a boat

Ed Araquel/Lionsgate

Huynh incorporated another heartfelt fashion Easter Egg that emphasizes the importance of community and family in Chinese and Asian cultures, when the group makes it to the grandparents house with only the clothes on their backs. After a boisterous bonding night, the four head out the next day in clothes borrowed from grandma (national treasure Lori Tan Chinn) and grandpa’s closets.

“It's family being there for each other and saying, ‘Here you go, get comfortable. Eat. Fill your bellies, while we take care of everything else. You don't want to be wearing your travel clothes. We’ll wash your clothes for you and you can wear my pajama pants,’” says Huynh, who went meta by plucking pieces out of her mother’s wardrobe.

Kat pairs a floral polyester shirt, tied at the midriff, with elastic-waist pants, Audrey tests out a qipao from grandma’s younger days, Deadeye wears grandpa’s t-shirt and Lolo bundles up in a red granny cardigan covered in white puffy clouds and a jumble of letters that don’t spell an actual word.

Courtesy of Lionsgate

The sequence also hit home for the SoCal-raised Cola, who recalls spending childhood summers with her grandparents in Shanghai, where she was born. “I came back wearing all of my grandma's clothes and jewelry to the point where my parents didn't recognize me,” says Cola, recalling a memorable visit.

The chemistry among the lead cast is electric, and Cola, Park, Wu and Oscar-nominated Hsu enjoyed improving off the razor sharp script by Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Teresa Hsiao. Cola shares that they even expanded their riffing into wardrobe for a pivotal travel montage, featuring the quad piled onto one motor scooter.

“We're wearing each other's clothes,” says Cola, about their successful pitch. “I'm wearing Audrey's blazer. Kat is wearing Deadeye’s sweater and Deadeye tied Kat’s little scarf around their head. Then Audrey is wearing Lolo’s jacket.”

“That moment was so just sentimental and a breath of fresh air because I feel these four characters are finally exhaling, after going through so much and carrying so much internally,” continues Cola. “We decided to do that to symbolize bonding and a moment in the film where we are a team.”

Joy Ride is in theaters now.