Quickly synthesizing the mythology behind Jobu Tupaki (Stephanie Hsu), the all-powerful, multiverse-jumping architect of the nihilistic Everything Bagel in Everything Everywhere All at Once, could be a tough task. But the antagonist conjuring one audacious outfit after another — during her reign of chaos against her laundromat-owning mother, Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh), — illustrates a pretty universal behavior. (Pardon the pun.)
“It’s a call for attention because she wasn’t getting it from her mom in the ‘real’ world,” says Shirley Kurata, costume designer of the sci-fi thriller-slash-family dramedy. Revealing herself to Evelyn to be an alternate version of her daughter, Joy, Jobu wears a show-stopping bedazzled white jumpsuit as she slow-walks towards her shell-shocked mom amid a burst of uncontrolled confetti. “The Elvis look is to provoke her mother and be more of a rebel,” says Kurata, who altered a high-end Elvis Presley impersonator costume to fit the petite Hsu.
Through Jobu’s steady rollout of outrageously outfitted personas, Kurata subverted and reclaimed Asian-centric tropes as well. Aided by discussions with writer-directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Kurata sent up the “stereotype of the ‘perfect Asian’ who’s ‘good at sports’” through the “wholesome” pink argyle vest- and socks-wearing Golfer Jobu. Goth Jobu, in all-black and a vinyl A-line miniskirt over a sheer tulle petticoat, puts a twist on anime cosplay’s Victorian doll-inspired Elegant Gothic Lolita.
“It was a pretty great embodiment of angst and darkness,” says Kurata, who’s also an accomplished editorial and fashion stylist. She pulled Goth Jobu’s knee socks, studded belt and sculpturally ruffled Commes des Garçons top out of her own high fashion archives, humbly referred to as her “kit.” For the trope-upending Jobu K-Pop Star, Kurata lent her own Jeremy Scott neon floral teddy bear-sleeved cardigan while taking inspiration from the popular music genre, plus individualist Harajuku street style, featured in photographer Shoichi Aoki’s FRUiTS magazine and the work of Moroccan French designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac.
For Jobu’s big reveal to the audience, Kurata paid homage to practical Asian matriarchs through their favored protective — and face-obscuring — visors and masks. Kurata enlisted New York-based designer Claudia Li to create the tartan cape-trench, exaggerated visor and mask. (The Chinese New Zealander also designed Bagel Universe Jobu’s white pleated skirt.) “For a brief second, Jobu’s an Asian grandmother, wearing a gray wig and visor,” explains Kurata, also pointing toward the Easter egg hiding in plain sight: Jobu’s navy plaid refers to Joy’s moody blue and black checked flannel worn earlier in the laundromat, as she tries to reach a distracted and disapproving Evelyn. “You associate grunge fashion with plaids, and that just felt right for Joy,” says Kurata.
In the finale showdown with Jobu, Evelyn not only tries to save all universes, but also her fraught relationship with Joy. The multi-colored, patterned and textured Jumbled Jobu, which Kurata hand-draped, is an audacious amalgam of Kurata’s appreciation of avant garde Commes des Garçons runways and remnants of Jobu’s myriad personas, like Bagel Universe queen’s white ruff around the calf and a silver driving glove from her nunchuck-wielding dildo luchador stint. “It embodied the confusion and helplessness that you get just being in this world, with so much information and chaos going on,” says Kurata. The yellow and red plaid speak to the Jobu-Joy crossover, while the worn-in Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers are actually Joy’s.
“I just knew that it would be important to integrate some of her other costumes,” says Kurata, “as Joy and Jobu.”
This story first appeared in a December stand-alone issue of The News84Media magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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