Costume Designers Guild Awards Sees Profile Rise as Artisans Gain Fans Through Social Media

Jazz Tangcay

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In the age of Instagram, costume designers have used social media to introduce legions of fans to their art, with names such as Sandy Powell, Arianne Phillips, Colleen Atwood and Mary Zophres earning superstar status.

This level of recognition is a source of pride for Salvador Perez, president of the Costume Designers Guild. “One of the reasons we started our awards was because we wanted to put a spotlight on costume design,” says Perez, a veteran of costume design with more than 40 credits to his name. He’s in the midst of fitting Mindy Kaling, who will serve as host of this year’s Costume Designers Guild Awards.

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The awards also go deeper than the Oscars, offering more competition categories, such as period, contemporary and sci-fi/fantasy.

Film nominees include: “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” (Arjun Bhasin), “Hustlers” (Mitchell Travers), “Knives Out” (Jenny Eagan), “The Laundromat” (Ellen Mirojnick) and “Queen & Slim” (Shiona Turini) for contemporary film.

For period film, the nominees are: “Dolemite Is My Name” (Ruth E. Carter), “Downton Abbey” (Anna Mary Scott Robbins), “Jojo Rabbit” (Mayes C. Rubeo), “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (Arianne Phillips) and “Rocketman” (Julian Day). “Aladdin” (Michael Wilkinson), “Avengers: Endgame” (Judianna Makovsky), “Captain Marvel” (Sanja M. Hays), “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” (Ellen Mirojnick) and “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” (Michael Kaplan) round out the sci-fi/fantasy category for film.

The TV field sees newcomers “Watchmen,” “Chernobyl” and “Fosse/Verdon” alongside previous winners, “Game of Thrones,” “The Crown” and “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

Now in his third year as president, Perez has watched the technology drive the changes in the industry. “Tech is advancing us,” Perez says. “We want to move along with it.”
As more projects are being created through CGI, Perez believes it’s important for designers to move with the curve and not follow it.

The guild hosts seminars so designers can understand the technology and work with it as it progresses. “If they start doing more projects like ‘Avatar,’ we might not have to physically make costumes, but we’ll still have to design them,” he says. “It will grow to a new evolution of costume design.”

Pay parity is also an issue the CDG is wrestling with. “Costume designers are 85% women. Production designers are 85% men. We are work for hire. They build. We are two department heads doing what I think is an equal job,” Perez says. “But because we are mostly women, we are getting paid less and I think that’s something that needs to be addressed as part of this movement.”

As the guild tackles day-to-day issues, it also recognizes the value of its award show and the special honors it will present this year.

The Spotlight Award will be given to Charlize Theron, in recognition of an artist who collaborates with costume designers.

“One of my first films was ‘Men of Honor’ with a young Charlize and Robert De Niro,” Perez says. “She was a delight and she made my job so easy to do. It’s so fitting we’re honoring her because she inspired me and set the bar for the rest of my career.”

Screenwriter, director and producer Adam McKay (“Succession,” “Vice”) will receive the Distinguished Collaborator Award. McKay is one, who Perez says, “is constantly making shows where costume designers get to show their artistry.”

Michael Kaplan will be honored with the Career Achievement Award. Kaplan designed costumes for such iconic films as “Blade Runner,” “Flashdance” and “Fight Club”; he’s also nominated this year for “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.”

The legendary Mary Ellen Fields will be honored with the Distinguished Service Award. Fields is the head of Bill Hargate Costumes and has collaborated with designers including Ellen Mirojnick, Albert Wolsky and Julie Weiss. “You can have a spark, Mary will take that concept and make it more beautiful,” Perez says.

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