Eiko Ishioka: Celebrating the designer’s extraordinary costumes for Bram Stoker’s Dracula – The Independent

Todays Google Doodle celebrates the life of Japanese visual artist and designer Eiko Ishioka (1938-2012) on what would have been her 79th birthday.

Born in Tokyo, Ishioka trained in advertising before casting her unique eye for patterns and detail towards more creative avenues, designing sets, costumes and promotional materials for operas, album covers, music videos and movies, working with such cutting-edge artists as Miles Davis, Bjrk and Tarsem Singh.

Ishiokas best-known and most enduring work remains the Oscar-winning costumes she created for Bram Stokers Dracula in 1992, a spectacular restaging of the classic 1897 horror novel from Francis Ford Coppola, director of The Godfather trilogy (1972-90) and Apocalypse Now (1979). The pair met when Ishioka designed the Japanese poster for the latter film and struck up a friendship.

Given imaginativefree-reinby Coppola, Ishiokas costumes for star Gary Oldman brought the vampire count to life and freed him from the black cape and evening wear the character had become associated with through iconic Universal and Hammer portrayalsby Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee.

Her vivid blood red designs are crucial to Draculas arresting visual impact – a contribution rivalled only by Polish composer Wojciech Kilars stirring orchestral score – and do much to counteract the films somewhatquestionable casting choices, with Keanu Reeves as wooden as a stake playing heroic lead Jonathan Harker.

Here are five of Ishiokas most extraordinary creations from an under-appreciated movie packed with invention.

(Moviestore Collection/Rex/Shutterstock)

Coppolas film opens on the plains of Eastern Europe, where Oldmans Vlad Tepes is leading anarmy of Christian knights into battle against invading hordes from Turkey. Victorious, he returns home to find his bride, Elisabeta (Winona Ryder), has killed herself -believing him dead -and forsakes god in despair.

Ishioka clads Vlad in an all-crimson suit of armour replicating the sinewy texture of flayedmuscle, its helmet cast in the shape of a wolfs head. Impractical, historically improbable but an utterlygorgeous flight of fancy.

(Moviestore Collection/Rex/Shutterstock)

When English estate agent Harker first arrives at Castle Dracula, he is greeted by the count wearing a flowing scarlet silk kimono that trails behind him, a gold phoenixembroideredon itsbreast.

Decrepit, ravaged by age and blood-starved, the robe gives the craven creature an Old World elegance and refinement at odds with the decay of his failing body. Its the most clearly oriental design Ishioka brings to the film and one of cinemas most unforgettable costumes.

(Moviestore Collection/Rex/Shutterstock)

The clothing the count wears in Transylvania nods to the characters ancient lineage and provides a direct contrast to the Bond Street tailoring he favours in the West.

The billowing metallic gown above, rich in jewels and patchwork curlicues, resembles a bishops vestments and is entirely in keeping with the Satanic perversion of Christianity the demon represents.

(Moviestore Collection/Rex/Shutterstock)

The 19th century gowns worn by Draculas female leads -Ryder and Sadie Frost -are largelytrue tothe period but Ishioka nevertheless finds room to introduce unique character notes.

Frosts Lucy Westenra, for instance, is introduced wearing a peppermint green party dress patterned with entwined snakes, a motif hinting at the characters overt sexuality, whichDracula will dulyexploit. Later bitten and laid to rest,Lucy rises from the grave in an Elizabethan burial gown whose lace ruff was inspired by an Australian frill-necked lizard – typical of Ishioka’s left-field approach.

The open-necked red gownworn by Ryder above leaves Mina Harkervulnerable to the monsters fangs while simultaneously conveying thecharacter’slatent passion andsensuality, its three-quarter length sleeves capturingthe drama of the Romantic period.

(Moviestore Collection/Rex/Shutterstock)

Never afraid to play with chronology, Ishiokas move to modernise Dracula culminates in the revolutionary, though entirely practical, decision to hand him a pair ofsunglasses.

Rejuvenated by fresh transfusions upon his arrival in London, the youngercount tours the West End in a fine charcoal top coat, waistcoatand matching hat, his dandyishshades shielding him from fatal sunlight and adding a steampunk flavour to the production, repeated in the striped straightjacket Tom Waitss Renfield sports in the asylum.

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Eiko Ishioka: Celebrating the designer’s extraordinary costumes for Bram Stoker’s Dracula – The Independent

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Reviewed and Recommended by Erik Baquero
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