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How Netflix’s ‘One Piece’ Live Action adaptation brings Oda’s designs to life

Netflix’s live-action adaptation of Eiichiro Oda’s bestselling manga and 26-year-old Japanese cult classic, ‘One Piece’ has quickly become a global sensation, hitting the number one most-watched series in 84 countries. Lifestyle Asia India caught up with Diana Cilliers, the costume designer for the One Piece live-action and spoke about bringing to life some of the most iconic looks from the manga, how the casting worked in her favour and what we can expect in the second season of the show.

The Netflix show, ‘One Piece’ Live Action has broken a spell of what seemed like a chain of failed live-action adaptations of Japanese manga, despite the extreme scrutiny that comes with trying to bring to life a manga revered to be one of the most popular both in Japan and globally. The success of the record-breaking show has much to do with several factors. One such factor is how closely the show follows the source while translating both from the language of literature to film and also from Japanese to English along with conceptualising a real-world perception of a fictitious world as vast as ‘One Piece’.

One Piece
(L to R)  Mackenyu as Zoro,  Jacob Romero as Ussop, Emily Rudd as Nami and Taz Skylar as Sanji  in One Piece, Netflix

The world of ‘One Piece’ created by Eiichiro Oda is a vast wonderland of exciting adventures, constantly growing world-building, and an unravelling storyline that is peppered with underlying social ideology. The popularity of One Piece has only risen through the years, establishing itself as a sub-culture in itself, not only in Japan but birthing a cult-like following globally as well. To transform this magical land of pirates and monsters, fantastical powers and exotic islands into a real-life three-dimensional endeavour is no easy feat. However, Netflix’s live-action adaptation with its expert casting, clean narration and animation and importantly the set creation and costume designs have created a phenomenon of a successful live-action. The noted involvement of Oda in collaboration with the showrunners is certainly worth mentioning with regard to the success of the show. The credit for the global success of the show is a combined medal earned by every team involved.

One Piece
Vincent Regan as Vice Admiral Garp in One Piece, Netflix

One such aspect that added to its success was the perfectly curated costume designs. The show saw a very real depiction of the iconic costumes of ‘One Piece’, be it the main crew or the Marine uniforms and the perfect depictions of the villains. From Luffy’s red vest to Zoro’s bandana each piece of clothing was curated seamlessly to fit the iconic designs the fans have only seen in 2D. The styling of the show and the well-tailored costumes were an essential mix to the formula that brought alive the world of Oda. Tasked with this job of breathing life into the hand-drawn artwork of Eiichiro Oda, was two-time Prime-time Emmy nominee and noted costume designer Diana Cilliers. She takes us through the fashion quotient of the ‘One Piece’ Live Action and how the collaborative effort of the team brought alive the designs into a three-dimensional real representation of the manga.

LSA talks to ‘One Piece’ Live Action costume designer, Diana Cilliers:

One piece diana cilliers
Diana Cilliers, Costume Designer for One Piece

How was the experience working on ‘One Piece’? How did it feel bringing to life some of the most iconic looks from the manga and Oda’s work? Was there any pressure to do justice to the original?

I think one of the most important things for us was to honour Oda’s manga and obviously the fan base and the characters that they created. So, we tried to stick as much as possible in my work to Oda’s creations and to the two-dimensional manga drawings and then to turn that into a three-dimensional costume. So, it was very interesting then to work with textures and so on to create the different layers that were needed. At the same time, not in any way take away any of his designs, his input and the characters that they were.

How was the process of bringing each of the unique characteristics and identities of the ‘One Piece’ characters out through the clothing? And what were the difficulties you faced?

You know, obviously, the characters, they are very, each character is so different, especially talking about the five straw hats. So that was quite a challenge. But what was absolutely remarkable for me, was the casting. Once we met the actors, the casting was really, really brilliant, I thought. So once we met the actors, it was really, really, it was comfortable for us to be able to work with Oda’s information and work with the casting and then create the characters that really retain the characteristics for the fan base, which we really wanted to honour quite strongly. So I think that the casting helped in every way.

This is your first time working on a manga adaptation. How was it different from your other productions?

It was very different, just simply in the way that I had to work with and honour someone else’s designs in a way and their characters. So, one always honours the characters of the scriptwriter and works with the director, but mostly I have my own, I have the freedom to design whatever I want in a way, you know, in collaboration. But in this case, I needed to honour it. So it was a great challenge to be able to use textures, colours and different fabrics without changing the design. So that was a wonderful challenge and an excellent experience.

Tell me a little about your personal styling preference, what genre of costumes or aesthetics do you deviate towards?

I like to do period movies. I do that often. I’m not that keen on contemporary movies. It’s not my first love or talent. So I usually do. I like doing characters more than fashionable styling if you know what I mean. So it’s really fun. It’s always completely collaborative with the actor and the director.

As a costume designer, how would you describe the show’s fashion quotient? What genre have the outfits of the ‘One Piece’ Live Action adhered to?

Steven Ward as Mihawk
Steven Ward as Mihawk in One Piece, Netflix

The outfits in ‘One Piece’ are timeless. They don’t fit into any fashion or any era. There are some period outfits, Mihawk’s outfit, some of the fish people and Arlong. There are different eras in there, but it’s essentially timeless. So in that way, it was also wonderful because one had the chance to actually adapt a lot of things and try and work in a way that one couldn’t place them in a certain period or era. That was a fantastic challenge.

What was one of your favourite costume designs from the show?

You know, I think for me, obviously the straw hats were fantastic because they were the iconic characters, but there were many of them. It’s hard to give you one favourite because there was Arlong, there was Mihawk, the Marines were also wonderful, Garp with his head. I mean, they were just amazing. There were a lot of challenges and lovely characters. I can’t choose a favourite. They were very different, and I don’t have a favourite because they’re so different. I love them all.

How was the process of incorporating the weapons and props along with the costumes and accurately representing these iconic pieces like Zoro’s swords or Luffy’s hat for example?

One piece
Mackenyu as Zoro in One Piece, Netflix

We worked very closely together. I think the two showrunners were collaborative and the directors. But we worked very closely with the production designer, the props designer, and each department. You know, it was a very, very collaborative job, which made it satisfying. I think it was wonderfully dealt with in that way. I think it was largely due to the wonderful showrunners we had. Everyone was incredibly involved in every aspect of the job, which was great.

Tell me a bit about the origins of the costumes, where were they procured from? How were they made? The materials you use, walk me through the process.

They came from a lot of different places. But I usually, get most of my materials in my life in a town outside of Florence in Italy, where a lot of costume designers shop. it’s a small town, but it has wonderful fabric warehouses. That’s usually where I go to start my trip with fabrics. I got a lot of costumes from Paris, costumes in Madrid. A lot of things came from them. It was great, that was the essence of everything. Then, of course, we manufactured with a wonderful team that I had. Everything was manufactured and fabricated here in South Africa.

Going forward seeing as season 2 of the series is set to continue, what would the changes in costume be, Will there be additions outside of source materials to the costumes, any experimentation, any of your designs, or does the series plan on staying completely true to the original fashion?

One Piece
(L to R) Emily Rudd as Nami, Mackenyu Arata as Roronoa Zoro, Iñaki Godoy as Monkey D. Luffy, Celeste Loots as Kaya, Jacob Romero Gibson as Usopp in One Piece, Netflix.

I don’t. I don’t think it is about one’s design. I think it’s really about honouring the characters and the kind of iconic reference work that we used was Oda sensei’s ‘Colour Walk’. That was the book that we read that was our massive reference work. So everything is in continuation. I think there are new characters. There’s a new world. There’s a lot of new things. If there’s a second season, it will be very exciting, but it will always honour Oda’s work and the manga. I don’t think we will ever go beyond that. That is really what makes this successful. We all feel.

Hero and Feature images: Courtesy Netflix

How Netflix’s ‘One Piece’ Live Action adaptation brings Oda’s designs to life

Part wild child and part philosopher with a veritable streak of whimsy, Chirrag is a lover of all things luxe. When he’s not home bartending, he’s possibly dabbling in his other passion; modeling. His daily activities include daydreaming about living in a quaint village in Japan, searching for the next art film to watch, or simply sitting by a window reading, Americano in hand.

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