Inside The Whimsical World Of Star Stylist Shirley Kurata

Los Angeles is full of insanely creative people, to be sure, but allow us this modest claim: stylist Shirley Kurata is in a league of her own. Lending her creative flair to Rodarte’s always-fresh runway styling, Peter Jensen lookbooks, and countless editorials featuring the likes of Zooey Deschanel, Miranda July, The Decemberists, Devendra Banhart, Beck, and the list goes on, Shirley’s individuality and undeniable spirit is palpable upon first-meet.
Her personal style is inspiring: untamed and colorful, feminine, and oh-so-retro, and her Los Feliz home is much the same. Glowing with natural light—so much so that Kurata rarely sleeps in—and fit to burst with photography and art books (they’re color-coded!), old records, funky wooden details, and sunny yellows and oranges, the '60s-era mid-century modern home is reminiscent of old-school Southern California living. Once a film and television costumer, her influences are varied, and boy, do her digs show it. If you're in the mood for some eye candy, just click through to take a look into the whimsical and wonderful world of Shirley Kurata. Trust, it does not disappoint.
Advertisement
1 of 23
Tell us a little bit about how your personal style influences your work...
"Well, my style is so distinct, and I think it’s important to not push my personal style onto other people. I think as a stylist you need to understand what that person’s personal style is, and what you can do to enhance it."

Photographed by Maia Harms
2 of 23
Every room — and outfit — in Shirley's life feels like a perfectly planned picture. How fortunate for our photographer!

Photographed by Maia Harms
3 of 23
Mixing tchotchkes with books (organized by color, no less!) brings the perfect blend of form and function to any bookshelf.

Photographed by Maia Harms
4 of 23
You’ve worked with celebrities like Zooey Deschanel and tons of amazing musicians, many of whom are known for their unique, very personal approach to dressing. What are your thoughts on having a signature look and sticking to it?
"I think it’s great that they have their own unique approach to dressing; We need people like them to inspire other people to find their own unique style and identity. Otherwise, the world would be such a boring place! Sometimes I feel like people don’t push the envelope as much as they used to. I mean, regular people in the '80s were dressing up like Adam Ant or Siouxsie Sioux, and that was the fashion. I mean look at how cool Molly Ringwald and Annie Potts’ characters looked in Pretty in Pink. It was by no means conventional. It saddens me to see people in boring jeans and T-shirts these days. I love people who are willing to try something new and different, even if it might end up being too crazy or bizarre – I like the risk-takers! Miranda July is a good example."

Photographed by Maia Harms
5 of 23
We're dying to try on these wonderfully whimsical shoes for ourselves.

Photographed by Maia Harms
Advertisement
6 of 23
A fantastically retro little corner of her world.

Photographed by Maia Harms
7 of 23
What would be a dream L.A. weekend for you?
"Well often I’m working on the weekend, but since this is a dream L.A. weekend I wouldn’t have to work, and maybe I’d start off getting breakfast at Clifton’s Cafeteria, and then I’d go play tennis at the courts in Griffith Park by the carousel. Next, I’d catch a good movie at the Cinefamily Theatre and then go to the Hollywood Bowl and see someone amazing like Brian Wilson, with fireworks going off to the music. On Sunday, I’d probably check out one of the flea markets, and I would find the most amazing vintage pieces for super cheap (this is a dream so might as well have it be good!). I’d then have lunch at Pie ‘n Burger in Pasadena. Then I’d check out a good exhibit at one of the museums. Have dinner at Musso & Franks, and then meet up with my friends for drinks at the Tee Gee."

Photographed by Maia Harms
8 of 23
On a day where you’ve just had enough of clothes, what do you do to relax?
"Turn on the TV and watch Storage Wars or Dance Moms, or watch something on Netflix. I’ve been watching The Wonder Years lately, and I forgot how good that show was. Sometimes I’ll revisit some of my favorite TV shows like Freaks and Geeks, Arrested Development, Degrassi Jr. High (the original one!) and Strangers with Candy."

Photographed by Maia Harms
9 of 23
Puppies and fabric and hats, oh my.

Photographed by Maia Harms
10 of 23
What is your most treasured piece of clothing?
"The Mt Fuji Rodarte dress that Kate and Laura [Mulleavy] gave me from the spring 2008 collection. It’s so pretty!"

Photographed by Maia Harms
Advertisement
11 of 23
You style for Rodarte, one of the most inspiring design outfits out there right now. What is your process working with them?
"I met Kate and Laura after they designed their first collection through photographer Autumn De Wilde who had just photographed it. Two days before their first runway show in New York, they called me freaking out about their upcoming show, and I offered to jump on a plane that same day and fly out and help them. Back in those days, it was really just the two of them, with Autumn documenting, handling the show. From then on, I’ve been a part of the styling process of the runway shows. Now, of course, there’s a bigger team helping them, from Bureau Betak doing the production end, to a hired staff and ample set of interns helping. Every season is different, there are always unforeseen dramas that of course get resolved, but it’s always exciting and inspiring. They are so creative and they never cease to amaze me! And I love the fact that they are from Los Angeles, and have shown New York Fashion Week that really great designers can come out of L.A. and be based out of L.A."

Photographed by Maia Harms
12 of 23
We certainly didn't expect to find needlework in this home, but alas, every corner boasted a fresh surprise.

Photographed by Maia Harms
13 of 23
You must have a lot of inspirations, given all the different jobs and people you work with. Can you tell us about a few of them?
"If I had a choice, I’d go to Japan on a regular basis because it is the source of so much cool stuff! They really have a refined eye there, and all the cool books and design pieces are there. But I think going to museums as much as possible, especially when I travel, is a big source of inspiration for me. And watching a lot of films! The Cinefamily Theatre here in L.A. has the best program of quirky cool films."

Photographed by Maia Harms
14 of 23
Magnets to match the pictures on the refrigerator. An easy stroke of design genius.

Photographed by Maia Harms
15 of 23
There's an art to tying the perfect bow. Shirley has clearly mastered it.

Photographed by Maia Harms
Advertisement
16 of 23
Shirley at home, in an outfit, and in a room, that betray her love of geometric patterns.

Photographed by Maia Harms
17 of 23
A true representation of mixed media.

Photographed by Maia Harms
18 of 23
How quaint! A record player that vaguely resembles a snow globe.

Photographed by Maia Harms
19 of 23
What has been your approach to decorating your space?
"I think it’s been an ongoing process of finding cool things that I feel connected to and that also work well within the space. I love cool vintage things and I used to be an avid thrift shopper, and I would get a lot of things from those adventures, like my wood hanging planters and Heller dishware. I think I relate most to folky mid-century modern items like stuff by Alexander Girard, and I also love '60s space-age stuff—things by Panton, Bertoia, Kartell, Saarinen, Colombo, and Knoll—along the lines of something you would find in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The house looks a bit like a '60s ski lodge or cabin, so I feel like the decor should reflect that aesthetic. It was built in 1962 by architect Stephen Alan Siskind. When I first saw the house, I couldn’t believe it existed in Los Feliz."

Photographed by Maia Harms
20 of 23
What do you love most about where you live?
"I love the fact that it is nestled in the Hills so it’s a bit removed from the noisy L.A. traffic, but it's still minutes away from a lot of cool shops and restaurants. Most of the places I go to hang out are on the East Side, so it’s nice to have everything close by."

Photographed by Maia Harms
Advertisement
21 of 23
Where do you shop in Los Angeles?
"For vintage: Shareen’s, The Way We Wore, The Loved One, Wasteland, Rose Bowl, and PCC (Pasadena City College) flea markets. For new clothes: Creatures of Comfort and Opening Ceremony. For books: Ooga Booga, OK, Family, Bookmarc, Skylight, and Hennessy & Ingalls."

Photographed by Maia Harms
22 of 23
Tell us a little bit about how your personal style influences your work...
"Well, my style is so distinct, and I think it’s important to not push my personal style onto other people. I think as a stylist you need to understand what that person’s personal style is, and what you can do to enhance it."

Photographed by Maia Harms
23 of 23
How would you describe your own sense of style?
"I’m really bad at describing myself, but I guess mod secretary style? I’m usually a mixture of vintage and new."

Photographed by Maia Harms
Advertisement