“The Mindy Show”

November 18, 2016

Anna Wyckoff

If you haven’t heard of Mindy Kaling and her character Dr. Lahiri from the eponymous rom-com hit, The Mindy Show, you might be taking a hiatus from civilization. Onscreen, Kaling’s character has negotiated her practice and personal life with trademark confidence and humor for five seasons on two networks. This week, the show celebrates its 100th episode. An atypical TV heroine, Kaling has celebrated her skin color and shape, providing inspiration to legions of women worldwide. An undeniable component of Kaling’s success is her collaboration with Costume Designer and President of the Costume Designers Guild, Salvador Perez. Their partnership has yielded a closet so fantastic and inspiring, it has fans of its own.

Initially, Perez turned down the series because he wasn’t interested in designing a show about doctors. When Kaling told him she wanted the show to be about fashion, to be aspirational, and that she wanted audiences to emulate the clothing, Perez acquiesced. He describes the initial process: “The first few episodes were a discovery period as Mindy and I were trying to figure each other out. Then one day it clicked. I put together something I thought was over-the-top, and she loved it. I thought, ‘OK, now I get where she’s going with this. I know that there aren’t any ground rules.’” He remembers the outfit specifically, a yellow cardigan over a blouse printed with horses, a plaid skirt, and booties. As they say, the rest is television history, because that look set the tone for the rest of the show.

Perez’s design approach is unconventional. While he mixes bold color and pattern with whimsy and panache, the most crucial component of Mindy’s look is the fit. “I think tailoring is my forté as a Costume Designer, because I started as a stitcher. Mindy’s clothes fit impeccably, and that is what people respond to because she’s not your average size two actress. She is a woman with curves and everything still fits her beautifully.”

The audience appreciation is evidenced by Perez’ expansive social media following. He loves to interact with fans and delights in the impact the costumes have made. “It’s like I have passed on my aesthetic to the them,” he chuckles, “now, after five seasons they are making their own Mindy-inspired outfits.” There is plenty to be inspired by, as Mindy has up to 32 changes per episode.

Initially, the decision to build Mindy’s custom made garments was due to a lack of retail pieces in the right colors and sizes. Also, since the show is shot in Los Angeles but takes place in New York, local stores did stock appropriately interesting coats. Perez explains, “It started very slowly and organically. We needed coats because I couldn’t find them, and started to build coats, then we started to make dresses, then blouses. Finally it became, ‘I want an orange blouse with pink trim.’” Audiences approved so wholeheartedly of the garments, Perez designed a line of coats for Gilt, which immediately sold out. Also, he created a jewelry line for Bauble bar, which sold out as well. While there has been much discussion and clamor for a fashion line, the schedule hasn’t permitted it to date.

“I didn’t start out trying to do a show where I was going to build it all, because you don’t do that with contemporary shows,” says Perez. “You don’t have the time or the finances for it. But because Mindy is our executive producer, show creator, showrunner, and star actor, we get to know in advance what’s coming up. We shoot an episode in five days—if I had to turn clothes around in five days, it couldn’t be done. But I know weeks in advance there’s going to be a party, a wedding, or a stunt. This gives me the luxury of being able to design those outfits, from the shoes, to the jewelry, to the handbag.”

Lest anyone think that Perez spends all of his time on Mindy’s costumes, he is quick to remind you that while she gets all of the acclaim, there is an entire supporting cast to dress. Because Mindy’s style is so distinctive and high end, the rest of the characters have to be dressed on par, or their world wouldn’t make sense.

Perez enthuses, “Mindy has become a true fashionista. She’s on the cover of magazines and she’s sought after for fashion shows. It’s because we have made a mark of what fashion can be. As an artist, how I put clothes together, how Mindy responds to it, and how the public responds to it, is so satisfying.” It seems Perez and his leading lady are perfect sartorial coconspirators. Congratulations Sal, here’s to a hundred more.

The Mindy Show is available on Hulu.

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