I have a tradition every Halloween, I grab a tall glass of red wine, a warm blanket, turn off all the lights and watch Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 epic Bram Stoker’s Dracula. To me, it’s the perfect accompaniment to a holiday about darkness and death. A lush, entrancing film that’s more about operatic set pieces and costumes than a clear narrative. It’s a satisfying visual masterpiece that I’ll take over a sack of candy any day. This last Halloween was no different, and in fact the next day I ended up watching another visually opulent and artistic movie, director Tarsem’s second major motion picture, The Fall.
And I noticed visual cues in the costumes that led me to IMDB, and reading all about the fascinating artist, set and costume designer Eiko Ishioka.
Eiko first received world-wide attention with her set and costume work on the film Mishima: A Life In Four Chapters, after which her provocative and poetic work caught the eye of Francis Ford Coppola, who asked the Japanese native to create costumes on his 17th Century Transylvanian epic Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The costumes she created were wild and completely unique to the canon of Dracula movies that came before it. Dracula went from being a flamboyant lady killer, to a dark and mysterious world-weary traveler, draped in ancient kimonos and capes inspired by the nouveau Austrian Gustav Klimt.
Eiko has worked closely with director Tarsem on his two films, The Cell and The Fall as well as his 2011 release, The Immortals. She has also gone on to direct the music video for Bjork’s Vespertine track “Cocoon” (see below for video) and create elaborate dress pieces for Grace Jones’ last tour, and if that wasn’t enough, she was a principle designer for the costumes of one of the most spectacular displays of artistry and volume – The 2008 Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony.
Below is a gallery of sorts of some of my favorite Ishioka designed work and some pretty terrible screen grabs from movies. I also recommend watching this short film: The Costume Are The Sets, a 14 minute mini-doc chronicling her work on Dracula and the process to create those amazing outfits.