Where are you from? How did you become a costume designer?
I am half Mexican and grew up in San Pedro, CA. I have lived in LA my entire life and also lived/worked in New Mexico. I became a costume designer by first starting my own clothing company. I used to design clothes for red carpet events like The Academy Awards and The Emmys. I then started a ready to wear line and had my line in stores all over the United States, Australia, England and Western Europe. During this time I started styling clothes for E News Daily. Within two months I was designing 2 different tv shows on different networks. Since then I’ve designed over 1300 TV episodes for ABC, CBS, Fox, Hulu, Telemundo, ‘E’ and Animal Planet, as well as designing feature films, commercials, styling editorials magazine covers and photo shoots.
What inspired the looks for East Los High?
What inspired my looks for East Los High is what was being worn on the streets coupled with designer pieces for certain characters. Vanessa was a fun character to dress because she thinks so much of herself and shows it in her wardrobe. Her winter formal gown in the opening scene was a real designer gown from Rome worth about $5,000. I couldn’t fake a dress like that and keep it real. I added lots of bling, texture and animal prints to most of her other clothes. If it looked “too much” I knew it would be a good fit for Vanessa. On the complete opposite side was Jessie who didn’t want to spend her mother’s hard earned money on frivolous things.
As our budget for East Los High was lower than a big Hollywood project I had to work much harder and become even more creative with all the clothing. We had over 700 costume changes in this series. Just so you know, 700 costume changes is massive. During the time we were filming, I was living in downtown LA so I found great clothing close by. For all of you reading this blog… there are amazing stores on Broadway and all over downtown with the best clothing available for CHEAP. What you will find are liquidation stores that have bought out high end lines and you can buy brand new clothes for $2 a piece. Not everything is that price but lots are. Do you remember the gorgeous short bridesmaids dresses on the show? They were $10 at a store on Broadway and 4th St. And you can even buy full length new white wedding dresses there for $10 on up. Girls, always accessorize with a great piece that stands out and you can wear simple outfits with a fun belt, shoes or purse. Believe me, you will be noticed. Just don’t overdo it.
Your wardrobe assistants on East Los High were all Latinas… how did you incorporate their taste and style into the looks? Where were they from?
Our costume dept team was amazing. Our Assistant Designer was Cari Avila and she did so much on the show. Cari was born and raised in Atwater Village. She helped me with shopping and fittings and when I wasn’t around sent the pics to my cell and I would pick the clothing from there. After about five weeks doing East Los High I had to return to my regular show, Sons of Anarchy, so I was working both shows simultaneously and going to set on weekends. Cari was there every day getting all the correct wardrobe on all the actors for those scenes. She and Greg Crouch, the set person, each had a notebook with all the scenes for ALL the episodes with pictures and notations and had to track it all every day. We also had interns on the show that could sew and learned how to track the continuity of the wardrobe. Besides that I would ask their input, they had great thoughts and many times we would add their touch and flair to an outfit. Without this group of amazing people, the show would never have looked right. We had the BEST Costume Department ever.
What’s your best shopping tip?
Don’t buy clothes just because they are in fashion. Always wear what looks good on your body, not just what is in fashion!