The pair displayed an easy and playful camaraderie as they explained their working relationship to a crowd of Emmy voters, among them many costume designers.
“I just like being surrounded by costume designers,” said Kaling. “You guys are like f—ing crazy people. When you’re around the artists in the Costume Designers Guild, it’s like the Hunger Games. It’s, like, white women in turbans, and they have their department and they all look equally fabulous.”
“And horrifyingly, I’m the elected leader of all of them, so what does that say about me?” retorted Perez, president of the Costume Designers Guild.
How they met and clicked:
“I had seen ‘Think Like a Man.’ It’s a movie that’s super-funny. The women are beautiful, and they’re not sticks,” Kaling said. Perez was the costume designer for that movie. “My agent called and said it’s a show about an ob-gyn office. I said, ‘I don’t want to do “Scrubs.”‘ Little did I know it would turn into this magical gift from the universe,” he said.
“One of the things we have in common is that we are both completely obsessed with what we do,” Kaling said. “I do really well with people who are obsessed with art. Sal and I are a very good match.”
“To collaborate with somebody, you inspire me every day,” Perez replied. “Nothing is ever too much, it’s never too late, you’re never too tired. You put as much effort into it as I do.”
On dressing Mindy and body image:
“I do think that I am scrutinized a lot more than other actresses because most people want to ask about my size and how brave I am,” Kaling said. “I’m like, ‘I’m not brave. I’m just not like really skinny.’ But for me, if people want to have a conversation about fashion, I love that. If they want to have a conversation about body image, sometimes I’m like, ‘Nah.'”
She credited Perez for being able to help her break those fashion rules for ladies outside of the expected Hollywood body type. “Magazines and articles and people will say, ‘You can’t wear this if you have this body type, you can’t wear light colors, you can’t wear pastels, you can’t wear mini skirts, you can’t wear horizontal stripes,'” Kaling said. “It’s a challenge. I’ll say, ‘Sal, take this thing that people say that people with my body type can’t do, and we’re going to f—ing do it.’ Because I don’t like to be told I can’t do things like that.” (The crowd erupted in cheers.)
“Mindy’s” fans have taken notice of her fashion, as Kaling said she gets a lot of girls tweeting and commenting on her Instagram.
“There are so many fashion rules. As a costume designer, you don’t listen to fashion rules. Your job is to make the actor look great, no matter who they are, no matter what size they are. It’s just showing you how to wear almost anything,” Perez said. He was thankful that his star actress-writer-exec producer made time for fittings, sometimes up to four hours long. “This is what it takes to look good in clothes — it all comes down to fit.”
On dressing Mindy Lahiri for her pregnancy:
When they first discussed her character’s pregnancy, Kaling told Perez that she wanted to make it really real. Then Perez showed her photos and fitted her with the pregnancy pad. “Forget it,” she joked. “I want the Bethenny Frankel special.” They found a happy medium for her character, as Perez noted a favorite outfit: a gold leopard unitard a la Nicki Minaj, complete with the pregnancy pad. “We got pretty lavish there,” Perez said. “There was a lot of Gucci maternity wear. I don’t think Gucci knows they make maternity wear, but it was fabulous.”
What will the baby wear?
Expect to see a lot of color and print, maybe some Missoni socks. Kaling noted that Perez was very disappointed that Mindy and Danny’s baby will be a boy. But he held out hope that it could still be a girl — he hasn’t seen the scripts yet. “Two ob-gyns got the sex of the baby wrong?” Kaling questioned. “Two ob-gyns didn’t know you were pregnant!” Perez retorted.
On a possible “Mindy Project” clothing line:
They were both excited about the idea, but Perez has been very, very busy. In addition to his duties on “Mindy” and serving as president of the CDG, he has collaborated with Bauble Bar on jewelry and served as brand ambassador for Casio Watches. Perez is currently working with Express on a collection with looks inspired by his work on “Pitch Perfect 2.” “Vacations aren’t allowed,” Kaling joked. “They’re for the weak.” Perez said he’d have to be involved in every detail, including designing the prints, and that it needed to be perfect. He just doesn’t have the time, especially with such a demanding boss.
What do they do with all those fabulous clothes?
“We do so much shopping,” Perez said. “Hundreds of thousands of dollars…”
“No, no, no,” Kaling quickly interjected. “Is anyone at Universal here? It’s all within the budget… I mean, it’s fine.”
Sometimes Mindy goes through 20-plus outfit changes. “I try to make your closet as big and as lush as possible,” he said, so as to be able to work on more custom pieces like Mindy’s Christmas party dress. Mindy has never repeated an outfit. “I’ve made her wear some pieces twice,” Perez said. “I love them all — they’re like my children.”
An audience member asked what happens to the clothes that Mindy wears. Typically, the studio will put used costumes in a vault to use elsewhere, but Perez said he loves Mindy’s clothes too much for that. “You won’t find anything from ‘The Mindy Project’ in the Universal vault.”
Fans can see some of Mindy’s outfits on display, however, in the windows at Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills through the weekend. Hulu will air the new season of “The Mindy Project,” produced by Universal Television, later this year.
(Pictured: Neiman Marcus’ Martin Pack, Mindy Kaling and Salvador Perez at the Neiman Marcus Beverly Hills)