Eiko Ishioka, designer for ‘Spider-Man’ and Cirque, dies at 73


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Eiko Ishioka, the celebrated Japanese designer whose fantastical and dreamlike creations spanned the fields of graphic arts, costume design and more, has died at 73. She died Saturday from pancreatic cancer in Tokyo.

Ishioka became famous for her strange, otherworldly designs that drew from various cultures. In the U.S., she was best-known for her costume design, creating the colorful outfits for Broadway’s ‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,’ Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Varekai’ and the 1992 movie ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula,’ directed by Francis Ford Coppola, for which she won an Oscar.


In 2003, Ishioka spoke to The Times about her work on ‘Varekai.’ As a designer, ‘my perspective comes not just from knowledge of what happens behind the scenes or backstage but also from the perspective of the audience,’ she said. ‘That dual perspective led me to the idea: ‘Why don’t I design costumes that look dangerous but are actually safe?’’

Ishioka also designed the costumes and sets for the 1988 Broadway production of ‘M. Butterfly’ by David Henry Hwang. More recently, she designed the outlandish costumes for singer Grace Jones for her 2009 ‘Hurricane’ tour.

Producers of Broadway’s ‘Spider-Man’ announced that they will dedicate Thursday’s performance to Ishioka.

Ishioka worked for many years in graphic arts and advertising in her native Japan. Her work has been compiled in the books ‘Eiko by Eiko’ and ‘Eiko on Stage.’ She won a Grammy Award for her cover art for the 1987 Miles Davis album ‘Tutu.’ Her first major film work was as the set designer for Paul Schrader’s ‘Mishima,’ the fractured biographical account of writer Yukio Mishima. Her most recent work was for the director Tarsem Singh for the films ‘The Cell,’ ‘The Fall’ and ‘Immortals.’

A full obituary will appear later at


Designer Eiko Ishioka talks about Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Varekai’


Eiko Ishioko: Individuality in the service of design

-- David Ng