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Eiko Ishioka

Eiko Ishioka was a visionary and absolutely unique art director and costume designer who died nine years ago, on January 21, 2012. Her work on Tarsem Singh’s films, including The Cell and The Fall, is a large part of why they are so visually memorable. Her operatic, magisterial costumes have an otherworldly quality, fusing Eastern and Western influences, and at the same time seeming to have no referents to existing sartorial styles – sui generis creations that are utterly fantastical. Lush, innovative, and outlandishly dramatic, her surreal designs linger in the memory with all the force of the truly original.

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Masks and Phantasms by Damselfrau

Damselfrau’s enchanting masks, bizarre, gorgeous, totemic, resplendent and larger than life, are reminiscent of some imagined and heretofore-unknown folk culture. These portraits of a fantastical people are often featured with an arrangement of flowers, which also lend their explosive vividness to the ultra-saturated and violently jubilant palette. Damselfrau says, “I have used fine lace, carried by the nineteenth-century Norwegian author Camilla Collett, hair from two-hundred-year-old Japanese geisha hair pieces, as well as everyday stuff, found in the street….I am led by the phantasms appearing in the process of the making and the materials themselves.” I am quite a monochromatic creature personally, so I appreciate the incredible vibrancy and wild color of Damselfrau’s outré creations.

Artist Magnhild Kennedy interprets the moniker Damselfrau (frau referring to married women and “damsel” being an unmarried young lady) as “married to oneself.”

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Ethereal Corruption: The Profane Transmutations of Fecal Matter

Fecal Matter (Hannah Rose Dalton + Steven Raj Bhaskaran) are an Instagram duo who use extreme, transformative makeup and prosthetics to create preciously bizarre, outré, and alien looks, mutating ethereal beauty into something transgressive and disturbing. Their aim seems to be to disgust and enrapture in equal measures, to simultaneously fascinate and repulse. They reside permanently beyond the pale, with a sly sense of humor which seems to parody high fashion. Dalton’s medical-themed image of a white-and-pink, pastel, veiny, flower-adorned, bile-eyed, wounded, sickly, modelesque semi-human being or anthropoid alien is unnervingly brilliant.

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Nuit Atelier

I’ve admired Nuit Atelier since its inception in 2012 by designer Anastasia Ikonnikova. Modern romantic clothing which harkens to historical fashion, “each garment is designed to shroud and strengthen the body, ennobling and mystifying the human form.” Characterized by beautiful draping, luxurious yet hardy materials, satin, linen and gauze textures, it achieves timeless classicism combined with raw, modern edginess. Frothy, frilled white blouses, voluminous bishop sleeves, blood-red velvet gowns, and dramatic black coats and cloaks with mysterious, enveloping oversized hoods. There are also more minimalist basics that are perfect for everyday wear. I could happily construct my entire wardrobe from Nuit’s offerings.

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Catacomb Divinities: Wearable Works of Art by Hysteria Machine

Cara Trinder of London-based Hysteria Machine creates elaborate, lavish antiqued metalwork headdresses, diadems for royalty of dust and dissolution, bespeaking an aura of tombs, saints, and ancient deities. Reminding one of Hellboy’s Angel of Death, her blind masks are breathtakingly exquisite and exude a sense of eldritch menace and holiness, as of dead yet incorrupt gods. Ominous and beautiful, her creations wed charnel house aesthetics to a delicate fey airiness. Their inspiration is drawn from halos, religious iconography, horns, and skulls, and evokes the bejeweled, brocaded, and fantastically dressed catacomb saints in all their sepulchral splendor.

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Dark Relics: The Jewelry of Mary Gallagher

Mary Gallagher is a Brooklyn-based jewelry designer who draws inspiration from ancient weaponry, weathered surfaces, and religious and occult symbolism. She grew up deeply influenced by the dark history of New England, its abandoned graveyards and asylums as well as the Salem witch trials. Her designs have a sculptural, textured, rugged quality, the feel of twisted wood, rock, of the veins of the earth.

Witchy, tortuous, and intensely beautiful, her metalcraft is instantly recognizable and powerful. It combines the delicacy of gems and precious stones with sharp lines and textures with a deft alchemy, creating a simultaneously fragile and bold style. She has used teeth, horsehair, fossils, leather, likewise garnet and moonstone, opal and pearl, to give her jewels their distinct molding and touches. Her pieces are instruments of protection, both armor and sorcery, investing the wearer with a talismanic power. They are a blend of the natural and the supernatural, and explore the borders or shared realm between good and evil, beauty and nightmare.

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T H R J Á R

Thrjár, from the Icelandic for the feminine plural nominative of “three,” is the jewelry line of Daria Andreson, inspired by her love of nature and her lifelong fascination by Norse culture. Mythical, organic, runic, and rough, these raw and lovely pieces are like sigils or talismans of a primeval heathen world, bedecked with mists, hidden by dark forests, and alive with mystery.

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The Wonderland Book

Kirsty Mitchell’s Wonderland Book is an enormous volume containing over 600 photographs, featuring the seventy-four pieces in her Wonderland series. It is a labor of love created in memory of her mother, who died from cancer in 2008, and took over five years to complete. These otherworldly images, lush, extravagant, super saturated with color, feature Mitchell’s lavish, wildly imaginative costumes and embody a fantastical, whimsical, and unrestrainedly vibrant fairytale aesthetic, inspired by the storybooks her mother read to her as a child and by her personal journey of grief and transfiguration.