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Meet Sami Martin Sarmiento

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sami Martin Sarmiento.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I always knew I wanted to be a designer from a very young age. Against the advice of my parents, applied to only one university.  Thankfully, I graduated from Parsons The New School of Design with a BFA, Fashion Design. Two years after school, I started my own label, Euclid, a high-end lingerie line. It was a labor of love, but after seven years running a small business I needed a break and a new challenge so I closed up shop.

From NYC, I moved to California and began freelancing in corporate design for two major fashion brands. While this afforded me a more stable living, it ultimately wasn’t creatively fulfilling. I have always loved film and television and had a desire to voice my creativity in the entertainment industry. Eventually, a friend who was a stylist at the time hired me to assist in a glossy high end beauty commercial. I instantly fell in love.

It was a dream job with a dream budget, but more so it was a job perfectly suited to the skill set I’d honed running my own business. I knew I could do this. I began assisting other stylists and costume designers. My first features assisting were on a horror film including a gay slasher that was inextricably removed from IMDB. I quickly realized that not every project has a beauty ad budget and learned how to stretch a dollar.

I consider myself a sorceress with a MacGyver toolbox because ultimately this job is about problem-solving and creating beauty out of thin air. Gradually I worked my way up and started taking on my own projects, keying for films and music videos. I love the process of design, collaborating and working with artists and actors, telling visual stories through costumes and clothes.

I am also a dancer and love the challenge of designing for experimental dance theater and dance companies including Los Angeles Contemporary Dance Company.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Ha! This has been far far far from a smooth paved road. Costume design is a hustle, and this is a demanding industry that often makes you question your ability and self-worth. Early in my career I would say yes to any job to build my resume but meant I was working for difficult people on jobs with no budget and no oversight. Productions would take advantage of my time and talent.

I’ve been asked to do jobs that are completely unrelated to my responsibilities as a costumer designer. I’ve been demeaned and belittled and watched as abuse is tolerated or worse rewarded on set. I’ve worked jobs where I’ve not been paid, or told on set the budget was cut, and I wouldn’t be receiving the agreed upon rate. While these jobs are in the minority, each made me hit the pause button and take stock of my life and career.

Learning to not take situations personally and having a keen sense of humor has been my saving grace. I’m now grateful to have the ability to be selective about the work I choose.

Please tell us about Costume Designer & Visual Artist & Stylist.
My first years as a fashion designer has definitely given me an edge including the way I do research for the characters in the scripts that I read. I am able to flow freely between fashion styling and designing for film. I work and create beyond a pedestrian stylist or costume designer who shops for clothes and styles the actors off the rack. I love and welcome challenges. I get handed scripts that are very demanding of visuals in production and costume design. As an artist, I made a pact with myself, I choose to work on projects that are visually challenging and or must have an important story to tell.

I am very fortunate to design for an array of poetically extraordinarily beautifully weird and obscure stories. My training from design school turned me into a very good pattern maker and sewer. This craft has enabled me to take raw ideas and build special pieces for specific scenes in film.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I wish I started saving money after college. I highly recommend the Nuts N’ Bolts class through the Actor’s Fund, and it is free. It’s extremely helpful for anyone in this line of business.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Gerard Sandoval, Wilcox Sessions & CLAW The Film, James D. Wall, Julia Jones, Ana Eiriksson, Flaunt Magazine, Tunde Adebimpe, Night Shift The Movie LLC, Estée Ochoa, Sadé Joseph & Spotify, Nathan Kim, Los Angeles Contemporary Dance Co., StandardVision

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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