Most of us who, in our growing up years, allowed the imagery of fairy tales to bleed into our fantasies and stain them forever, have a Snow White memory. Be it the porcelain vulnerability of the princess, the queen’s evil obstinacy or the loyalty of the seven dwarfs, it’s a provocative memory as fairy tales are cracked up to be. Full of fascinating costumes, bizarrely beautiful colours, incredulous hairstyles, nectar fountains, rosy apples, candy houses or giant trees with secrets. What would our imagination be without fairytales? What would fairytales be without costumes?

Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen in ‘Mirror Mirror’.

Ishioka lived in New York for many years and died in Tokyo last year of pancreatic cancer at 73, inspiring interpretative obituaries all over the world. These writings marked her solitary significance as an acclaimed devotee as well as a guru of unbridled artistic imagination. Two months back, when news of her posthumous nomination for Mirror Mirror poured out, (her fourth film with Singh) it made headlines in Japan. It’s a fertile country too for its artsy, globally relevant contributions to fashion and costume through Issey Miyake (architectural clothes), Yohji Yamamoto (black minimalism and anti-fits), Kenzo (the mentor of separates), Rei Kuwabuko (called the NASA of global fashion) and Ishioka.

Ishioka worked for the stage, screen, advertising and print media, carving a bridge between Eastern and Western art, in the process earning an Oscar, a Grammy and a string of other global honors and nominations. Her work was spiked with striking surrealism whether it was Miles Davis’s album cover for Tutu (1986), David Henry Hwang’s drama M. Butterfly for Broadway (1988), Björk’s controversial video for the song Cocoon (2002), costumes for the Beijing Olympics’ opening ceremony (2008), hair-raising costumes for Singh’s fantasy drama The Cell (2000) and his mythical epic The Immortals (2011); the musical Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark (2011) amongst many other creations. Japanese product house Parco’s stark ads shot with actor Faye Dunaway stand out in the memories of everyone who followed her work. And Coppola’s Dracula, of course.

A scene from ‘Mirror Mirror’.

Will Ishioka win the award posthumously? Either way, two things seem clear: one, that the empress’s new clothes are what make Mirror Mirror a visually gripping story. Two, people may die, both those inside fairy tales and those who keep exhuming them. But some things live on also because they are unforgettably garbed.

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