Creativity is our rocket fuel at LDJ, and we’re especially boosted by women whose work is an authentic extension of their passion, love and light—who transform challenges into golden opportunities and who are redefining what it means to be a “creator.” This article is part of our Conscious Creators series of West Coast wonder women, whose creativity comes from their innate and unadulterated passions, photographed by the legend with a lens, Todd Selby.
A fashion visionary with a uniquely ebullient style entirely her own, Shirley Kurata has carved a formidable path as a leading LA wardrobe stylist and designer. Her Rolodex of clients and collaborators is a vast and inspiring one – Roland Mouret, Paper Magazine, Autumn de Wilde and Rodarte to name just a few.
Although Shirley wore a school uniform from Kindergarten through high school, her alacrity with color was always apparent. “What you wore growing up felt like a real identifier.” That unique identity would evolve as Shirley followed her passion for French film to pursue a fashion degree in Paris (where she would sneak peeks at the shows, selling magazines inside the venues). Upon returning to California to complete her Fine Art degree, her capacity to cross pollinate myriad influences – West Coast skate culture, Eastern modernism, cinematic European elegance – really took shape.
While her eclectic style emerges mainly in her wardrobe (note her effortless marriage of LDJ’s archival prints and patterns), Shirley’s LA home is similarly adorned with pops of color and vibrant accents. “I want to keep a mid century modern minimal, zen environment. But the battle as a stylist is that you accumulate so much.”
This aesthetic melange flows into Virgil Normal, her fashion and home goods store built out of a former moped repair shop (one she used to frequent as a member of a moped gang – yes, she literally is the coolest). The shop is the encapsulation of Shirley’s values, serving as a community hangout and platform for local creatives looking to share their work. They host comedy nights, wine tastings, music events and pop up shops – the shed on the back patio serves as a rotating pop up shop for friends and artists. Like the time their friend Leo wanted to host a Cereal Bar there, or when Rodarte took over the shed with a printing press for t-shirt iron-on pop up.
In the main shop, a vast collection of vinyl records speaks to her many musical tastes, which range from post-punk, early electronic to Eighties disco and beyond. Japanese city pop is a go-to genre to get her creative juices flowing, but her love of Japan isn’t limited to their musical output. “I just love that even in such a small country, they make everything work because of this tradition of respect, for each other, for one another’s space. It’s a thing I think America was slow to adopt. You can affect people around you.”
“I was raised Catholic, but it’s a tough religion to accept at times. I believe in karma, and if you have a kind and giving heart that opens up the world in a way.”
Approaching her work like a true artist, Shirley’s creations and stylings never skew one-note. “Sometimes styling is like costume design, a fictitious character and you have to dream up what they would wear.” Innovation and scrappiness are two of Shirley’s core characteristics, necessary assets in a role that requires thinking on one’s feet. “I guess that is what makes my job interesting, I’m always on my toes. The client could change their mind on the direction.”
Born and raised in LA, Shirley is a “true Angelina”, a warm weather woman who relishes the diversity of her West Coast community. And while she doesn’t follow a specific spiritual practice, save the occasional meditation on particularly stressful days, she feels a strong connection to the Buddhist influences of her Japanese heritage. “I was raised Catholic, but it’s a tough religion to accept at times. I believe in karma, and if you have a kind and giving heart that opens up the world in a way.” Shirley, we whole-heartedly agree.