SHIRLEY KURATA IS A LOS ANGELES-BASED STYLIST AND COSTUME DESIGNER. HER WORK HAS APPEARED IN TELEVISION, FILM, ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS, FASHION EDITORIALS, ON THE RUNWAY AND ON STAGE, INCLUDING ON THE VOICE, CAMPAIGNS FOR RODARTE, KENZO AND GUCCI AND IN MUSIC VIDEOS SUCH AS “BABUSHKA BOI” BY A$AP ROCKY. SHE IS ALSO THE CO-OWNER OF LIFESTYLE BOUTIQUE VIRGIL NORMAL.
Style has an almost ineffable relationship with music. We respond not only to the power of the sound but also to the image that comes with it. David Bowie, Madonna, Brian Eno, David Byrne—each captured their creative worlds not only in their songwriting and performance but in their iconic style. Each also uniquely inspired Shirley Kurata, the Los Angeles super-stylist who has brought her distinct retro-futurism inspiration to a diverse set of artists and brands, from Beck to Jenny Lewis, Tierra Whack, Pharrell and Bright Eyes. Whether in a high-budget music video, magazine photo spread or an over-the-top performance at the Afropunk Festival or South by Southwest, her looks elevate how we see artists and hear their music.
So, it’s no surprise that Shirley’s home is a temple to musical inspiration. From her eclectic wall of vinyl to her collection of turntables, cassette players and boomboxes, music makes for an essential design element in her heavily curated Los Angeles home. Her soundtrack, like her personal aesthetic, draws from influences across decades and across the world. But, Shirley still reflects the bright, colourful vibes of her native Los Angeles where she also helps run Virgil Normal, a “concept lifestyle store” in Silverlake. The city opens up a world of creativity and opportunity, she explains, but it’s also a place you can “zen out if you want to”. She could just as well be describing her home.
HOW DO YOU DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE AT HOME?
Space Age folk, mid-century modern.
HOW DOES MUSIC FIT INTO THE EXPERIENCE OF YOUR HOME?
Music reinforces a mood that you want in your home, whether you want to chill, dance, entertain, be happy.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE SPOT IN YOUR HOUSE WHERE YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC?
At the dining room table.
YOU HAVE A LOT OF VINYL. WHAT’S ON YOUR TURNTABLE RIGHT NOW?
De La Soul “3 Feet High and Rising”.
YOU HAVE A FEW DIFFERENT TURNTABLES, AS WELL AS A TINY BOOMBOX—WHAT’S THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THESE OBJECTS?
I had this 80’s pink Sharp boombox as a kid that I adored. It sadly got stolen at some point from my brother’s car and I had lamented to some friends about how sad I was to no longer have it. They had found another pink boombox at a flea market and gave it to me for my birthday which made me so happy. Plus, I still have all my mixtapes from my youth so I need some sort of cassette tape player to listen to them. I also love any sort of Space Age music listening device…I have a bubble turntable that’s more for show than for practical listening. And then I have a newer turntable for actual listening.
TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR RECORD COLLECTION.
I have a lot of records from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, with the majority being from the ’80s. I really love stuff from the early ‘80s—like from 1979–81 where there was a fusion of synth, funk, boogie, disco, no-wave and post-punk. Some of my favourite bands put out some great records at that time, such as ESG, OMD [Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark], YMO [Yellow Magic Orchestra], Joy Division, Talking Heads, Orange Juice, Gary Numan, and Liquid Liquid.
HOW DO YOU FIND RECORDS?
I like going to the Pasadena City College flea market where there is a decent record vendor selection. I also buy a bunch of records whenever I visit Japan because I think they have the best record stores there. I also hit up some of my favourite record shops here in L.A. like Record Jungle and Permanent records. And I also buy a bunch of awesome records from Bueno Records which is at the shack in the back of my shop Virgil Normal.
DO YOU HAVE DIFFERENT RECORDS FOR DIFFERENT TIMES OF DAY?
When I’m working, I tend to listen to music that is a bit more quietly melodic but has enough of a rhythm where I’m not put to sleep. Music like Brian Eno, Japanese city pop, shoegaze, Stereolab, Kevin Ayers, The Feelies, Felt. Usually, in the evening I sometimes have a dance session with my cats in which case I would listen to more dance music such as 80's freestyle, early Madonna, Japanese disco and Italian disco.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN STYLING PEOPLE AND STYLING YOUR LIVING SPACE?
You style your living space to please yourself and the people and animals living there and do it in a way that makes all inhabitants comfortable. You style people to please them and to allow them to express their personality. Styling your living space is more self-serving whereas styling people is more of a service.
HOW INFLUENCED ARE YOU BY LIVING IN LOS ANGELES? THE MUSIC, ART AND DESIGN CULTURE?
I’m very influenced by LA. It’s a city that is so rich in culture and art. But L.A. is also a city that is laid-back and chill. It’s also surrounded by mountains, beaches, and desert. So you have access to the outdoor life which is also important to living a creative life. I think it is a great combination of having a lot to offer and do, but also allowing you to zen out if you want to.
YOUR PLACE HAS THIS UNIQUE FEEL OF BEING BOTH COMPLETELY CURRENT, WHILE GIVING A NOD TO THE PAST. DO YOU EVER FEEL NOSTALGIC FOR A SPECIFIC TIME IN FASHION OR MUSIC?
I’m actually most nostalgic for the time when we weren’t surrounded by so much technology, our phones, our computers, tv’s with hundreds of programming—a time when things were more analogue and less insular.
WHAT IS THE SONG IN YOUR MIND THAT EMBODIES THE SOUND OF LA?
“L.A. Night” by Yasuko Agawa.
WHAT RECORD BEST EMBODIES THE ENERGY OF YOUR HOME?
“Tom Tom Club” by Tom Tom Club.
AUTHOR JOHNNY DWYER PHOTOGRAPHER MIKE LOPEZ