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Costume Designer’s Guild President Salvador Perez Wants to Move Beyond His Niche

Salvador Perez didn’t really believe he would make his career in costume design.

“I always thought this was temporary until I did a fashion line,” he admits. “And, of course, I’m the president of the Costume Designer’s Guild; I’m probably one of the few Latino labor-union leaders in the industry. I have been very successful at something I didn’t set out to do.”

Perez, who grew up near Fresno, Calif., credits much of his success to the work ethic he learned from his father, an auto mechanic. Entering high school, he found a supportive counselor who encouraged him to take sewing classes. He continued on to the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in L.A. and broke into the business as a stitcher.

He was running the sewing workroom for “Titanic,” and had been creating custom clothing for years, when he landed his first film design job, on “Soul Food” — mostly on the strength of having designed all the clothing for the wedding of the film’s producer, Tracey Edmonds (including two gowns for the bride, bridesmaids’ dresses, and the groom’s tuxedo). Director George Tillman Jr. was flabbergasted by Edmonds’ choice of an inexperienced costume designer for the film, but Perez won him over. “We laugh about it now,” says Perez, “because we’ve been friends for over 20 years.”

Other titles followed, including “Light It Up,” “Drumline,” and “Mr. 3000.” He quickly diversified.

“I was the urban designer for the longest time, and then, after ‘Veronica Mars,’ I was a teenage designer. And now between the ‘Pitch Perfect’ movies and ‘The Mindy Project,’ I am the cute-girl designer.” He even designs red-carpet fashion for Mindy Kaling.

But Perez isn’t satisfied in this niche. He met last year with an action-film director, who wondered if he wanted to dress men. “And I’m like, ‘Yes,’” says Perez. “I want to dress guys in a big blow-up movie. … I’m a costume designer. We’re gypsies. We want to do it all.”

Meet the President
Perez heads the Costume Designers Guild.
The Mindy-Project 2012-2016
Perez earned an Emmy nom for the platform- hopping comedy
Pitch Perfect (2012)
He designed duds for this comedy and its sequel
Veronica Mars (2004-2007)
He worked on 58 episodes of the CW/UPN drama

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