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Eiko Ishioka, Oscar-Winning Costume Designer, Dies at 73

Costume designer, graphic designer, and artistic genius Eiko Ishioka, who won an Oscar for her costume design for Bram Stoker’s Dracula in 1992, passed away on January 21 of pancreatic cancer. Ishioka enjoyed international renown for her work in costume design and was recognized as one of the most prolific art directors and graphic designers in her native Japan. Most recently, she worked on the costumes for Broadway’s Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark and frequent collaborator Tarsem Singh‘s Snow White retelling, Mirror, Mirror. Come inside and see what this woman created throughout her career, and why her very creative touch is going to be sorely missed.

Born in Toyko, Japan in 1939, Ishioka graduated from Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music before starting her multi-faceted career. She first made waves creating promotional art for the Japanese department store Parco in 1973, including a 15-second commercial featuring “a tall, thin black woman, dressed in a black bikini, dancing with a very small man in a Santa Claus outfit” and her final one, which featured Faye Dunaway (eating an egg).

Despite her prolific career designing costumes, that wasn’t how she started out, and she always worked in a variety of fields. In 1983, her work in art direction and graphic design was showcased in the book Eiko by Eiko. And just two years later, she won the Cannes Film Festival Award for Artistic Contribution as the production designer on Paul Schrader‘s Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters. Two years after that, in 1987, she won a Grammy for the artwork in Miles Davis‘ album, Tutu. Then, in 1988, she was nominated for two Tony awards for costume and stage design for M. Butterfly on Broadway. Her Oscar for costume design in 1992 made her just one award short of EGOT status, though we think she still did pretty well for herself.

Ishioka found a niche in film, and worked with director Tarsem Singh on all of his films. Here is an example of her work from Singh’s feature debut, The Cell, which starred Jennifer Lopez:

She also worked on last year’s Immortals. Here is Julia Roberts as the Wicked Queen in Mirror, Mirror, wearing one of Ishioka’s creations:

And here is just one of the costumes for which she won her Oscar, Mina’s dress in Dracula:

Lastly, she was responsible for designing costumes for (formerly) Julie Taymor‘s Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, including this dress and villain, which might have not survived the creative changes. (If that’s not accurate, please let us know!)

Ishioka also directed a music video for Bjork (“Cocoon,” which is groovy, but NSFW for non-sexual nudity) and designed costumes for Grace Jones in 2008. Including this wild number:

Now that Oscar Time is officially in full swing, it’s always a good idea to recognize the work of people who don’t always appear on camera and work in the areas of film that don’t get a whole lot of publicity in the mainstream press. After looking at these pictures and seeing what Eiko Ishioka was capable of creating and then putting on a human being, it is clear that we have lost a real visionary.

(via The Hollywood Reporter, additional information found on Wikipedia)

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  • Anonymous

    Eiko’s costume designs were always a bit “hit or miss” for me. Even if I found her work in Immortals to be distractingly silly I loved what she did in Dracula and The Cell.

    Still, no creative mind can expect to please everyone every time, nor should they.

    I’ll miss seeing her work.

  • Anonymous

    Eiko was a great costume designer but as Diddy said, either hit or miss. That mask in The Cell was sleek but Julia Roberts’ Queen costume is quite meh… 

  • Charlie

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  • Jill Peters

    I was enthralled with her costumes for Dracula.  The fine detail she incorperated in each costume, especially Mina’s.  Each of hers had some sort of leaf design, small but very significant…just as Draculas wife had in her costume.  Such beauty makes a film.

  • Anonymous

    Re: Spider-Man…That villain survived, but I’m not certain the dress did.

  • Frodo Baggins

    What’s Tarsem gonna do now? :(

  • Jodie

     I actually believe that Mirror, Mirror’s costumes are meant to be ridiculously campy. At least, that’s the feeling I get from the trailer and the acting. If that’s the case, I think the dress (and the footman’s outfit) is spot on.