American costume designer Willa Kim has died at the age of 99. Richard Schurkamp, a fellow costume designer and friend of Kim’s, confirmed her death.
The accomplished professional won a Tony Award for her design of The Will Rogers Follies in 1991, ten years after her first win for Sophisticated Ladies. She earned nominations for her work on Goodtime Charley, Dancin’, Song and Dance, and Legs Diamond. She was also a three-time Drama Desk winner, having been nominated five times in total.
She costumed her final Broadway show in 1995, Victor/Victoria starring Julie Andrews as Victoria Grant.
Born in California June 30,1917, Kim graduated Belmont High School in 1935, showing a penchant for art and design, and attended the Chouinard Art Institute (now the California Institute of the Arts) on a scholarship. She began her design work in film, under the auspices of Raoul Pene du Bois, who is known for the costume and set design of the circus dream-musical sequences in the movie Lady in the Dark starring Ginger Rogers. Kim transitioned to the theatre, but also designed for American Ballet Theatre and other dance companies throughout her career.
She was awarded Patricia Zipprodt Award for Innovative Costume Design by New York City’s Fashion Institute of Technology in 2003 and the Distinguished Achievement Award for Costume Design from the United States Institute for Theatre Technology in 2005. Two years later, Kim was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.
Her brother, Col. Young Oak Kim, who passed away in 2005, was a decorated war hero, a veteran of the U.S. Army. In 2009, a middle school in Los Angeles was named in his honor. Willa Kim attended the special ceremony honoring her brother at Young Oak Kim Academy in 2009.
In 2011, Kim spoke for CUNYTV about her over 50-year career as part of the “Women in Theatre” series: