It’s a story straight from the movies. Small town boy in Alberta grows tired of the promise of a life on the oil fields, packs his bags, sells everything and moves to the big city to follow his dreams of a life in fashion. And for Stylist and Costumer Derek Perrett, that’s exactly what happened.
“I was a bit of a trouble-maker. I didn’t go to high school much,” he explains. “In the oilfields I worked from 5:30am to 3pm, then I’d work at the bar from 5pm to midnight. I decided to sell everything, packed what I had left in a rental car and started anew. It was wild.”
High risk, high reward. Derek made the long drive from his hometown of Wainwright (population 6,270) to Vancouver and Blanche Macdonald’s Fashion Marketing program, where he picked up the expertise and connections that have led him to becoming the up and coming Stylists and Costumers for film and TV. He has styled shoots with actors including Keiynan Lonsdale, Tati Gabrielle and Riley Smith, and six-foot-seven former NBA all-star Metta World Peace, while working his magic behind the scenes on shows like iZombie, The Flash and Motherland.
“It’s incredible,” he smiles. “I would have never experienced anything like this if I’d stayed in my town. It is cool getting to work with the big name actors. They’re so different to how you see them on screen. I got to meet Joel McHale, who’s a cool, down to earth guy.”
“Being a Stylist and a Costumer require totally different skills. As a stylist you should be fashion forward. I try to base my decisions on the person we’re working with but I still want to create looks sharing what’s up and coming. I’ll check Instagram and see how they normally dress, but I’d try to get them out of the box with what I think will look good on them and what’s cool now. With costume you want to make a character’s outfit relatable. It should tell the story without standing out a ton.”
Being a Stylist and a Costumer require totally different skills. As a stylist you should be fashion forward. With costume you want to make a character’s outfit relatable. It should tell the story without standing out a ton.
“For both roles attention to detail is so important. You want to ensure every element is to everyone’s high standard.”
High standards come naturally to Derek. He set them for himself when he began searching for a fashion school.
I loved going to Blanche. I loved all the teachers. I always wanted to show up for class. I wanted to learn as much as possible because I wanted to get into this industry.
“When I called Blanche Macdonald they were so lovely it was an easy decision. I loved going to Blanche. I loved all the teachers. I found a group of friends who were real, were there to learn, work and find jobs. I always wanted to show up for class. I wanted to learn as much as possible because I wanted to get into this industry.”
In and out of the classroom, Derek demonstrated on a daily basis that he was serious about making fashion his life.
“Two months in I went to speak with Career Director Mel [Watts] and asked her if it was too early to meet with her. She said, ‘The sooner the better.’ I was already working in retail, and because I knew I didn’t want to be a buyer – I’m terrible at math – she suggested I move to something more flexible. I had a car, which was huge! I could get places for early calls.”
As a stylist you have to do everything yourself, so it’s comforting when someone has your back. To have an assistant that’s super-reliable is one of the most valuable things in this industry.
“One day Mel contacted me saying there’s a stylist from Alberta she thought I’d get along with. Someone from Alberta? Now you’re talking! That was Jessica Clark and my first job with her was a Nickelback music video. I was the very first person on set. I did some buying prior to the day and it was my responsibility to make sure all the clothes were in order. I was doing things assistants normally don’t do on their first gig with a new stylist, so for Jessica to trust me was a big deal. She’s brought me on for jobs ever since if she needs me to assist. Having a car, and the ability to say, I can do that, whatever the head of styling needs, is so important. As a stylist you have to do everything yourself, so it’s comforting when someone has your back. To have an assistant that’s super-reliable is one of the most valuable things in this industry.”
Derek stayed beyond busy, assisting superstar stylist and fellow BMC graduate Sarah Danniels, building his film and TV hours on iZombie, and hustling his way onto photoshoots that enabled him to join the emerging artists roster at powerhouse agency Lizbell. His versatility is as valuable as his reliability.
When you’re styling shoots the preparation is way more work than the day itself. The more work you can put in beforehand the easier it is on the day.
“When you’re styling shoots the preparation is way more work than the day itself. The more work you can put in beforehand the easier it is on the day. I’ll have seven or eight looks and a bunch of options if something doesn’t fit. You have to get everything back to the stores on time so they lend you more stuff for the next job. Relationships are important. You want to meet as many store managers and workers as possible. If they’re lending you $1,000 worth of clothes you want to be grateful and respectful of what they did for you.”
“Film work is very different. Costume Designers like that I have a car and I’m prepared. They like that my styling work has given me experience of how clothes should look and how to buy and return, but on a busy film set the priorities are so different. There are way more people to dress and you need to do it in a very short amount of time. I’m really friendly on set but not to the point that I’m ass kissing. You want to be professional, not sitting on your phone.”
A good eye is the most important thing. A solid fashion sense is something that’s inside you. You can pick up tricks along the way, but an eye is essential.
“A good eye is the most important thing. A solid fashion sense is something that’s inside you. You can pick up tricks along the way, but an eye is essential.”
This Stylist and Costumer has a full professional schedule proves that the young man from Wainwright has fulfilled his every ambition.
“I’m not a celebrity back home but my friends are really happy for me. They love that I’m always chasing my goals. They want to hear my stories.”
“I love working. I want to keep travelling and keep getting tattoos. As long as I’m working in this industry I’m happy with whatever comes my way.”