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The Costume Designer at the Center of the Universes

Shirley Kurata wore a pink long-sleeve T-shirt designed by her husband, Charlie Staunton; a vintage pink floral Comme des Garçons skirt; and yellow and purple Melissa x Opening Ceremony sneaker jellies, one of at least two pairs she owns. The large round L.A. Eyeworks glasses are exclusive to her, in a marbled pattern and tobacco color called “bronzino.”

雪莉·仓田(音)穿着一件由丈夫查理·斯坦顿设计的粉色长袖T恤;一条经典Comme des Garçons粉色印花短裙;黄紫两色的Melissa x Opening Ceremony果冻运动鞋,这鞋她至少有两双。巨大的L.A. Eyeworks圆形眼镜是她的专属,使用了一种大理石图案和被称为“布龙齐诺色”的烟草色。

Kurata, who gives her age only as “Gen Xer,” has a signature style, mixing vintage with high-end designers, and is drawn to an intense color wheel — an exuberant look she has cultivated since her brother’s girlfriend gave her hand-me-down Barbies from the 1960s. (“I thought, ‘Wow, these clothes are so much cuter’ ” than Barbies from the ’80s, she recalled.)



She has brought her aesthetic to the Linda Lindas’ new music video “Growing Up,” Rodarte’s recently released look book for its fall 2022 collection, the MiuMiu short film “House Comes With a Bird” and Vans’ capsule collection with rapper Tierra Whack. But perhaps most notably, this sought-after costume designer’s original eye was showcased in “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” this spring’s sleeper hit feature film.

她把她的美学带进了美琳达乐队(Linda Lindas)新出的音乐视频《长大》(Growing Up)、Rodarte近日推出的2022秋季系列造型册、MiuMiu短片《此房附带一只鸟》(House Comes With a Bird)和Vans与说唱乐手蒂耶拉·瓦克合作的胶囊系列。不过,最能体现这位炙手可热的戏装设计师的原创眼光的,可能是今春黑马电影长片《瞬息全宇宙》(Everything Everywhere All at Once)。

“She’s able to take the dumbest-looking things and turn them into high fashion,” said Daniel Kwan, who, along with Daniel Scheinert, directed “Everything,” which is now streaming. “In a lot of ways, she’s a kindred spirit to our process and very much focused on the same endeavor, putting highest and lowest on the same level and showing people maybe they’re two sides of the same coin.”


“A lot of the movie is regular people wearing kind of frumpy things that are very specific to an IRS office or a laundromat, and it was exciting that Shirley was just as passionate about that as the far-fetched, wild aspects of it,” Scheinert said. “Shirley was a slam-dunk for this movie.”

For the film, Kurata spearheaded the costumes for actors Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu and Jamie Lee Curtis as they traveled between multiple universes — including nearly a dozen wild looks for Hsu, who played Joy Wang, the daughter of a Chinese American couple running a suburban laundromat, as well as the villain Jobu Tupaki.


“The interesting parallel is my parents owned a laundromat, too,” said Kurata, who grew up in the Los Angeles suburb Monterey Park and attended an all-girls Catholic high school in La Cañada Flintridge. “I really related to Joy’s character.”


Based in Los Angeles, Kurata describes herself as a “creative collaborator.” She has dressed Billie Eilish (including for her current world tour), Whack, Lena Dunham, Jenny Lewis and Pharrell Williams. Among her fans are directors Autumn de Wilde, Cat Solen and Janicza Bravo. And Kurata herself emits an aura of celebrity — as a fashion icon, a model, a muse and a co-owner, along with her husband, of the lifestyle store Virgil Normal — even if fame is not how she measures her success.

在洛杉矶生活的仓田自称是个“创意合作者”。她给比莉·艾利什(包括她目前的世界巡演)、瓦克、莉娜·杜汉姆、珍妮·刘易斯和法瑞尔·威廉姆斯做过造型。她的拥趸包括导演奥特姆·德瓦尔德、凯特·索伦和詹妮克扎·布拉沃。仓田自己也散发着一种名流气息——时尚教主、模特、缪斯、和丈夫共同经营着生活方式商店Virgil Normal——尽管声名并不是她衡量成功的标准。

The youngest of four children in a Japanese American family, she said she didn’t fit in at her “predominantly white and preppy” school. At a freshman ice cream social, she recounted, “One of the seniors asked me earnestly, ‘Do you speak English?’ ”


“You’re just as American as these other white students,” she said. “But in terms of the mainstream, there wasn’t much that reflected who you were. It was always a challenge or dilemma to assert your Americanness.”


She expressed herself through fashion.


“I was really into Japanese magazines,” Kurata said, adding that she loved the fashion and styling and would try to do her own version on “free-dress days,” when school uniforms weren’t required. “I had a friend that lived in Orange County, and she introduced me to the whole world of thrift shopping.” While studying art at Cal State University Long Beach, she decided to move to Paris to study fashion design.


It was during this formative three-year period attending Studio Berçot, known for its avant-garde curriculum, that Kurata’s interest in film burgeoned. “There was such a big appreciation for filmmakers and there would always be film festivals — Godard, Jacques Tati,” she recalled. “I was like, ‘Who is this Cassavetes?’ I had a thirst for seeing cult and indie films and the fashion in them.”


“I really consider Shirley to be one of the top five stylists in the world,” said Peter Jensen, chair of fashion at the Savannah College of Art & Design. Jensen founded (and has since sold) a namesake label that once featured a collection inspired by Kurata — with color-blocked ’60s silhouettes and models all sporting her glasses and hairstyle. “She comes from a fashion design background. She knows the language. She understands the nuance and small elements and how to put all of it together to become a full story.”


Much of her inspiration comes from the world she has built around her, including Virgil Normal, the East Hollywood store she opened with Staunton in 2015 in a former motorcycle-repair shop that was also the hangout for their moped gang Latebirds. The shop’s patio hosts events such as a pop-up for hand-lettered signs by She Chimp, fundraisers and gatherings to rally support around local causes.

她的很多灵感来自于她在自己周围建立起来的世界,包括Virgil Normal,这家她和斯坦顿2015年在东好莱坞开的店前身是一家摩托车修理店,也是他们的轻便摩托帮“晚鸟”的聚集地。这家店的露台上举办过各种活动,比如She Chimp的手工标语快闪店,为当地公益事业争取支持的筹款活动和集会。

“Shirley has knowledge of all different mediums of art that makes her references and eye unique,” actress Kirsten Dunst, whom Kurata has worked with on Rodarte collaborations, wrote in an email while shooting Alex Garland’s “Civil War.” Besides being a great dancer and karaoke partner, she continued, “Shirley has an innovative imagination and knows how to make that a reality.”

“雪莉精通所有不同的艺术媒介,所以她的指涉和眼界都很独特,”演员克尔斯滕·邓斯特在拍摄亚历克斯·加兰的影片《内战》(Civil War)期间在电子邮件中写道,她曾与仓田在Rodarte的系列中合作。她还说,仓田是一个很棒的舞者和卡拉OK搭档,而且“雪莉还有创造性的想象力,知道如何使想象成为现实。”

Kate and Laura Mulleavy, the sisters who founded and are the designers of Rodarte, have worked with Kurata, along with stylist Ashley Furnival, since their first New York show, in 2006. Its fall 2022 collection — presented in a look book instead of a runway show — featured a cast of actors, musicians and directors such as Kathleen Hanna, Rachel Brosnahan, Lexi Underwood and the Linda Lindas. Laura Mulleavy talks to Kurata almost every day on the phone.


“Shirley is very much connected to a visual narrative,” Mulleavy said. “Creating character, an intention to come across in the clothing, extreme or subdued, she understands the theatricality. She understands the history of fashion in a very interesting way.”


“The first time we met her it was over Zoom and she had her cat on her lap,” said the drummer for the Linda Lindas, 11-year-old Mila de la Garza. (Kurata has two black-and-white tuxedo cats, Fanny and Moondog.) “She was already there petting her cat. And she has her glasses. And we were like, ‘Wow, this girl is cool.’”


“For us, it’s important that you’re comfortable and you can move in your clothes and you’re confident in what you’re wearing,” Lucia de la Garza, 15, a guitarist for the group, said over Zoom as her bandmates nodded in agreement.


That’s what punk is, according to Bela Salazar, 17, another guitarist: “a way of doing things and thinking, so it translates into fashion.” “It’s a way of expressing yourself,” she added. “And we trusted Shirley.”


Kurata has taken a momentary pause to field scripts before signing on to her next major project since the surprising box-office success of “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”


“I don’t want to be working on things for superficial reasons, because I need money or to build my book or whatever — I did that when I was younger,” she said. “I’m seeing how much the movie has affected people. Being part of something like that means a lot to me, where you see Asian representation not in a clichéd or stereotypical way.”


Kurata is also involved in workers’ rights in her own field, as a board member on pay equity for the Costume Designers Guild. “In film right now, it’s still very much a boys’ club, so throw in being a person of color, that’s another challenge. I’ve definitely felt that. I think it’s still a battle.”


Though she’s reached a certain level of success, Kurata says she’s far from done.


“For me, it was a long path,” she said. “It wasn’t like I was discovered, I didn’t have the contacts. I worked on the crappiest low-budget movies for years. It was very slow and it took a lot of hard work to get to where I am now. I’m still not even where I could be, but getting there.”

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