“Mindy just loves clothes,” says costume designer Salvador Perez, the man responsible for giving Fox’s The Mindy Project its sartorial sizzle. Perez, a costume industry vet who got his start manufacturing pieces on 1993’s Super Mario Bros. movie and now serves as president of the Costume Designers Guild, has been with the show since it premiered in September 2012. And he’s been outfitting Mindy Kaling‘s Dr. Mindy Lahiri in the vibrant, personality-infused frocks that have come to define the OB-GYN’s wittily optimistic, girlie demeanor ever since.
“The first six episodes we were trying to find who Mindy was, because everyone thinks that Mindy Kaling and Mindy Lahiri are the same person and they’re not,” says Perez, whose costume design credits also include Veronica Mars, Castle and a bevy of our favorite guiltiest pleasure Lifetime movies (Lindsay Lohan‘s Liz and Dick, included). Though the two Mindys are indeed different, locking down Kaling’s Dr. Lahiri via fashion was made easier because — plainly put — Mindy Kaling loves clothes.
WATCH: Inside The Mindy Project’s Wardrobe Room
“She’s constantly shopping,” Perez says of his boss. “The other day she had a photo shoot and on her way home she went by DVF because they were having a sale. So she started texting me photos. She’s very involved. She will find a great piece, and then my challenge is to mix it into her wardrobe.”
Perez is up for the challenge. Recently, he went into Kaling’s own closet to snag a black Giambattista Valli cocktail dress she’d worn on a talk show appearance. After some customization work the dress now hangs in the show’s wardrobe trailer to be used in an upcoming scene — essentially the “working closet” where Perez and his team spend 14 hours a day prepping wardrobe for Kaling, her castmates and, at times, upward of 100 extras. But Perez wouldn’t have it any other way.
“The fun part of this job is getting to be that creative every single week.”
Perez invited us to his office on the Universal lot and gave us a tour of his digs — including his mood boards, the wardrobe “cage” and a slightly tricked out trailer that doubles as a closet on wheels. To see the full tour, click here.