"Sinister": Melina Yudelka Perez's latest collection brings the horror

Photography by Casey Tang, Hair and Makeup by Xochitl Gonzalez and Maiya Evans, co-styling by myself and Maya Halabi, video by Madi Gordon and Jacob Webber, Modeled by Hannah Lasure, Bryn McLain and Allison Lopez and Production Assistance by Autumn Stabeno.

Photography by Casey Tang, Hair and Makeup by Xochitl Gonzalez and Maiya Evans, co-styling by myself and Maya Halabi, video by Madi Gordon and Jacob Webber, Modeled by Hannah Lasure, Bryn McLain and Allison Lopez and Production Assistance by Autumn Stabeno.

To kick off spooky season, we talked to designer and creative Melina Yudelka Perez about her new collection, finding inspiration, and making fashion your own.

Hey Melina! Can you tell us a little about you and your background?

Absolutely! I graduated from UT in May with a degree in Textiles & Apparel Design. During my time at UT, I was able to explore a lot of different facets of the fashion industry, like creative direction for The Audacity, a publication that merges social justice issues with a sense of aesthetics, modeling, show production for our senior fashion show, costume design for film, editorial styling, and of course, design. When I was small, I was always sketching little designs in a notebook I took everywhere with me and dreamed of one day being able to design my own clothing, so it’s kind of crazy that it’s all come full circle this way. I grew up in New York, Washington Heights to be specific, and would make regular trips around Times Square with my mom to window shop and would just dream about being a famous designer. I never really thought that fashion was something I could do as a career until I came to UT and was exposed to such a thriving creative group. I’m so grateful! 

Have you always been interested in designing? How long have you been creating?

I started sketching those little dresses in my notebook when I was probably around 4. I was always interested in other kinds of art as well, and was constantly gifted paints and colored pencils to keep developing my skills. I’m not really much of traditional artist or sketcher anymore unless I’m trying to develop some new design ideas, but I think being able to really get creative with different mediums when I was younger has helped me develop as a designer.

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“When it comes time to design my own stuff I like to draw inspiration from other forms of art and manifest that idea into a clothing item, such as a movie, a song, or even a feeling.”

What inspired this collection? Where do you find inspiration in general?

This collection is inspired by horror films, spook and gore, and Billie Eilish’s ‘bury a friend’ music video and lyrics. I follow a lot of different fashion brands pretty closely, but when it comes time to design my own stuff I like to draw inspiration from other forms of art and manifest that idea into a clothing item, such as a movie, a song, or even a feeling. I’ve designed things in the past based on the Italian Renaissance and the history of dress, and a dress trying to mimic the way you feel when you’re standing in water and it’s flowing around you. 

This collection was also named after one of my favorite horror movies, Sinister, specifically because of the way it spooked me to my core. I always really appreciate that in a horror film, because it’s hard to get me these days since I’ve seen so many (haha). I enjoyed that this film didn’t really have any music telling you something bad was about to happen, so it was more about the element of surprise, and the end of the film didn’t end the way you’d expect at all. I’ll share the descriptions I wrote up for each piece in the collection:

Look 1 was inspired by a door I saw in the dyeing room at the Opera House when I studied abroad in Paris. The door, which is white in a white room, had a lot of red and black handprints made by people who were working with dyes opening the door without washing them, which then begs the question: what’s behind that door? It stood out to me because not only was it a stark contrast to the white walls, but there are so many times in horror movies where something looks ominous and scary, but people ignore their instinct and fear to see what’s behind that door. The chain harness also ties in the more industrial look the dyeing room had. The denim skirt was distressed using a serrated kitchen knife after literally nothing else was working for me lol gotta do what you gotta do for the art.

Look 2 features a top that spells out ‘end’ on the front and ‘me’ on the back, which comes from the lyric “I wanna end me” from bury a friend by Billie Eilish, woven with red yarn. This one took me two weeks of nonstop work to make!! There’s a plastic vinyl top over it that is inspired by squeaky clean serial killers like in American Psycho and The Stepfather— no one ever suspects them because they’re so good at covering their tracks and covering up what they did, but someone always figures it out (simulated by the yarn that resembles blood drip and the clear vinyl seeming to “cover up” what they did, but obviously not really, not at all). This can also literally be inspired by the plastic tarp that is put down to make cleanup easier after the deed is done. These are paired with black pinstripe trousers with super long chain suspenders.

Look 3 was inspired by the lyrics “for the debt I owe, gotta sell my soul” from bury a friend. The shorts are spray painted and say those lyrics (pretty abstractly but if you really look you can see the words) and tulle was used on the sides to tie it in with the small bits of tulle on the white top. The chain on the top piece was used to tie it in with the chain details seen in the other looks to create one cohesive, creepy collection that was brought to life by the BEST team in the world:

Photography by Casey Tang, Hair and Makeup by Xochitl Gonzalez and Maiya Evans, co-styling by myself and Maya Halabi, video by (we’re premiering something special at an event later this month which I’ll mention at the end!) by Madi Gordon and Jacob Webber, Modeled by Hannah Lasure, Bryn McLain and Allison Lopez and Production Assistance by Autumn Stabeno.

Photography by Casey Tang, Hair and Makeup by Xochitl Gonzalez and Maiya Evans, co-styling by myself and Maya Halabi, video by Madi Gordon and Jacob Webber, Modeled by Hannah Lasure, Bryn McLain and Allison Lopez and Production Assistance by Autumn Stabeno.

Photography by Casey Tang, Hair and Makeup by Xochitl Gonzalez and Maiya Evans, co-styling by myself and Maya Halabi, video by Madi Gordon and Jacob Webber, Modeled by Hannah Lasure, Bryn McLain and Allison Lopez and Production Assistance by Autumn Stabeno.

Describe your area when designing. Do you play music? Work with others around? Etc.

Usually, I like to be around people I can talk to that can get me through the project when it starts to get tedious. When I was at UT, there was always someone else in lab that was doing and thinking the same things you were, so it was nice to go through it with someone who understood. Now, I like to be around my roommates watching tv. When I worked on it alone, I’d watch horror movies and horror anime to keep me in the creative mood and keep the inspiration flowing. My work space is usually a little hectic, but I like to think it’s a manifestation of all the ideas I have in my head at one time when I’m working on something (or maybe I'm just messy).

What is your favorite thing about fashion? Least favorite?

My favorite thing about fashion is that it doesn’t have any rules or boundaries. I love independent, smaller-scale designers because they’re really pushing the envelope and experimenting with style. Personally, I like that clothing can tell someone so much without you even having to speak. I wouldn’t say I have one set style, because there’s just so much this industry can offer me in terms of how I present myself and what kind of message I want to put across during any given day.

My least favorite thing about fashion, or the industry itself, is the lack of representation whether it be models, creative directors, designers, etc. I’m seeing a lot more creatives of color, especially on social media, but I think there needs to be more of a spotlight on the imaginative and innovative work they produce. 

Do you follow trends/are you excited about any right now?

Yes and no, I like to see what’s current and on trend but I don’t let it dictate what I’m going to wear. I’ve really been liking the resurgence of Buffalo London’s, this platform sneaker brand from the 90s, and I literally wear mine to death. I’ve also been seeing a lot of independent designers on Instagram hand paint or spray paint on clothing, which I think looks so dope. I’m also REALLY enjoying the comeback of that early 2000’s Louis Vuitton rainbow logo print. SO CUTE. 

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Do you have anything coming up that we should be watching for?

I’m having an event on October 19th at Unit C from 9-12 for my collection! During the shoot, we filmed some video, so that will premiere at the event. I’ll also have photos up of the collection, live models, and a horror fun house theme with a photo booth, games, and a DJ! Please come out and join me, I think it’ll be a fun time :-)

Be sure to follow Melina on Instagram for more content and some behind the scenes looks at her latest collection.