Design Icon Eiko Ishioka

Few people know that my first career was as a costume designer in theater, film, and television.  I studied theatrical design at university, and, thanks to a very lucky break, slid into the business and worked in that position for a few intense, fun years.

For my taste, Eiko Ishioka was the greatest costume designer in the world.  She certainly changed my world with her exquisite costumes for Francis Coppola’s’ Dracula.  I was always a “Francis Freak,” but it was Ishioka’s shockingly vibrant, wildly dramatic, luscious wardrobe that jettisoned me into Coppola’s Gothic fantasy and made me want to stay there.  Forever.  The reds were not incarnadine but blood itself.  The juxtaposition of bridal white against the ruthless horror of an undead bride seared my imagination.  The bizarre confluence of Japanese discipline, Victorian excess, unbridled sexuality, and sheer theatricality stunned me.  I couldn’t get the images out of my mind.  For decades.

When I was writing Dracula in Love, I was always conscious of the impact of these images upon my psyche.  I did not want Ishioka’s genius to intrude, yet I couldn’t ignore her influence.  I worked hard to prevent myself from lapsing into imitation (for who could imitate the inimitable?).

I always hoped that I could one day meet her.

Now Ms. Ishioka has passed away and taken her extraordinary talent with her.  I admit that until I saw her obit in The Guardian, I didn’t know the diversity of her talents, or that in her earlier years in advertising, she changed the world’s sensibilities and its perceptions of the feminine—not just mine.