• Fashion

Shirley Kurata Talks About Her Journey in Fashion

Shirley Kurata is one of the most impactful Costume Designers of today. Known for her eclectic and vibrant aesthetic, Kurata has worked with numerous high-profile clients, featured in various fashion publications, and has been responsible for the wardrobe of several movies, including Everything Everywhere All at Once. Her ability to effortlessly blend different styles and create visually stunning looks has earned her a reputation as one of the most sought-after stylists in the industry.

Shirley agreed to an interview over Zoom.

How did you start in the world of fashion?

I have always wanted to be a fashion designer. I went to fashion school in Paris and studied there for three years. As a foreigner, it was tricky to get a job there. So, I decided to come back to LA and take advantage of the work opportunities in the city. I began by interning, working for free and taking every job I could. After learning the trade as an assistant, I started to veer more into styling music videos and bands and working on commercials. After years of doing a lot of print, and commercial work, I felt I was missing something. I felt I wanted to get back to filmmaking. There is a sense of family when you do a movie, because it’s a longer process. So, I got back to it and hoped the right project would find me.

Was Everything Everywhere All at Once that “right” project?

Yes. One of the producers, with whom I had worked several times asked me if I was interested in doing the costume design for the movie. I said yes. I then went for lunch with the Daniels (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert), the directors. We hit it off and that’s how that one happened.

How do you prepare as a Costume Designer?

I do a lot of research. I tend to watch a lot of movies that would, somehow, connect to the movie I am about to make. For example, for Everything Everywhere All at Once I watched a lot of martial arts movies, a lot of Michelle Yeoh’s earlier movies, and some that the Daniels recommended to me. I make mood boards for each character and I go through a lot of books.

If I do a period movie I would go through the high school yearbooks of that time. It all depends on the specific project. Then there is always an open dialogue with the actors. It’s a collaborative process. I also draw a lot of inspiration from traveling. Mainly to Japan, where my roots are. I love observing the street fashion over there and also go to the museums in Tokyo.


You were nominated for an Oscar this year for your work in Everything Everywhere All at Once. How did you celebrate?

The night before the nominations a group of us that had worked in the movie went for dinner to celebrate the lunar year.  I really didn’t expect to be nominated. So, I just went to bed, without worrying about waking up early to see the nominations announcement. However, at 5:30 in the morning I started getting these congratulatory messages. I couldn’t believe it. The most amazing thing about it was the outpour of love I got from friends, family, and colleagues. It felt great. I toasted with some of them, to celebrate.

What’s the biggest advice you would give to someone wanting to break into the fashion industry?

Tenacity. You must be hard-working and willing to take jobs that aren’t the most exciting. When you are starting out, you learn from every project. You should take what you can get. Then, with time you can afford to choose what you want and what is important for you.

What’s next?

I have a couple of projects lined up that are delayed due to the writer’s strike. I support the strike but I need to wait to see what’s really going to happen after. I am also looking forward to continuing to work with people that are creatively interesting. I want to be involved in projects that impact people in a positive way.