Eddie Marks began his costuming career in 1965 at MGM Studios. He went freelance after three years, and eventually became the Costume Supervisor on the hit TV series “Streets of San Francisco,” starring Michael Douglas. In 1987, Eddie received an Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Costuming for a Mini Series or Special for his work on the CBS-MOW “Shakedown on Sunset Strip,” a 1950’s L.A. crime drama. He served as Costume Supervisor on an impressive list of films, including “Melvin and Howard,” “Taps,” “All the Right Moves,” “Revenge of the Nerds,” “Christmas Vacation,” “Dead Poets Society,” and “Postcards From the Edge.”
Like so many Western employees, Eddie’s first association with the company came when he utilized its services as a costumer. In 1989, he was hired as Senior Vice President, and two years later was promoted to president of the company.
During Eddie’s twenty-plus years as President, Western has grown into one of the largest and most prestigious costume houses in the world. Eddie supervised the company’s 1992 massive move from Melrose Avenue to its current location on Vanowen Street in North Hollywood. He has overseen the growth of Western’s uniform department, as well as acquired some of America’s most admired private clothing collections for Western’s stock. A member of Local 705, Eddie has also volunteered his time serving on the Motion Picture Costumers Union Executive Board, where he helped negotiate contracts between producers and costumers.
Married to Debby in 1977, they have two boys, Branden and Garrett. Branden is a third generation costumer and Garrett an associate producer on the TV show “Unsung”. They also have a grandson named, Aiden.
In 1982, Debby and Eddie started a rental wardrobe trailer business called, “Rag Van Rentals,” which they still operate today.
When Eddie Marks was building his Western Costume team, he knew exactly who to hire as his second-in-command: industry veteran Frank Allegro.
Frank spent twelve years working at Costume Rentals Corporation, where he rose in the ranks to become president of the company. Eighteen years ago, Eddie Marks lured him over to Western. In addition to his duties as Executive Vice President, Frank runs Western Costume’s highly regarded Uniform Department. Under his sure eye, the department underwent a $2 million expansion, making it the largest in the country – and the best.
“What makes it unique is our ability to keep up with modern-day military and police uniforms,” Frank explains. “There’s constant change, which makes it a challenge. But we have the ability to get things right when we recreate the past. We know how to acquire the proper uniforms and all the parts that go with them – the correct insignia, the medals, all of the important ribbons. We make sure it’s historically correct, which is very important.”
The results of Frank’s attention to detail can be seen in films like “The Alamo,” “Battleship,” and “G.I. Joe,” and in TV shows like “Castle,” “Southland,” and many more.
Monica Allegro, head of Western’s Purchasing Department, describes herself as a “detective using her years of research skills and a vast network of resources to find the unfindable.”
Prior to purchasing in the costuming business, Monica was a purchaser in the highly demanding aerospace industry. Need gold buttons for a lady’s dress, circa 1900, London? No problem for Monica compared to securing parts for the space shuttle.
Monica joined Western in 1994 and has made an industry name for herself as a buyer who will virtually go to the ends of the earth to satisfy her customers. When the film, “Tropic Thunder” needed eight identical Hmong jackets, Monica found them through a source in Southeast Asia. In 2004, Western was tasked with creating historically accurate uniforms for Disney's film, “The Alamo,” “I found a gentleman who’s a part-time archeologist and had just located authentic pieces from the Mexican Army uniforms right in his Texas backyard,” shares Monica. “He was kind enough to overnight me the findings from his dig and we had these recreated to the actual dimensions.” Where else in L.A. can a costumer find a buyer who works such purchasing magic?
Under the guidance of Head Cutter/Fitter, Nancy Arroyo, Western Costume’s Women’s Workroom has become legendary among fashion and costume designers for its brilliance at building exquisite custom-made clothing.
Nancy trained at Instituto Oviedo in her native Ecuador. She has spent her entire thirty-year career at Western, where her incomparable eye for detail has made her the go-to seamstress for some of the film industry’s finest garments as well as high-fashion pieces that decorate the spring and fall fashion runways. Nancy also welcomes the public to take advantage of her extraordinary skills. Whether it’s costuming a superstar or building a debutante’s ball gown, “Whatever the customer wants, we’re happy to do it,” says Nancy.
Bobbi Constantine has spent twenty years at Western Costume “making costumers’ jobs as easy as possible.”
Bobbi, whose background is in accounting, operations, and business management, started in Western’s Accounts Payable division. She then ran and reorganized the company’s cash reception desk. From that position, she segued into her current job as Operations Manager. Bobbi’s diverse experience at Western is a boon to customers, who often deal with budgets. “I am able to assist our customers with their accounts, whether it is walking them through setting up an account so they can place orders with our company, quoting out jobs, and calling or emailing them their totals,” she explains.
As Operations Manager, Bobbi handles the calls from clients who need men’s, women’s, and children’s civilian costumes; these clients can be local, out of state, or out of the country. “I see the orders through from A to Z,” she explains. “From when an order is placed to when it’s picked up or goes out the door for shipment. I also assist costumers who are just coming in to pull. I never say no to anybody.”
Before joining the Western Costume family eighteen years ago, Kurt’s eclectic background included riding horses in films, making saddles, and a brief stint in advertising. Kurt has authored several books on 19th century military uniforms, as well as magazine articles on the subject. He has also served as a consultant to the Autry Museum and Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and curated museum displays of military uniforms at both museums.
At Western, Kurt keeps abreast of all military and civilian regulations and uniform changes. “I’m constantly trying to find what’s new and correct, “ he says. “We try to be as accurate as we can. Every cop and military uniform is as authentic as possible, from boot soles to handmade epaulets to helmets. Our goal is for you to look at a guy, and you don’t know if he’s in a movie or if he’s real.”
Head Tailor Jack Kasbarian, a native of Lebanon, learned his craft at a cousin’s tailor shop before moving to this country. He began his career as a coat maker at Frank Hoffer Tailoring, a prestigious Rodeo Drive bespoke shop.
Jack joined the Western Costume family twenty-seven years ago. His skills span centuries and can be seen in period films like “Hidalgo” and Disney’s “The Alamo.” Jack also crafted and supervised the building of coats and suits for the Harrison Ford film “42.” He has a special fondness for building coats. “I like to work on period suits, tailcoats, and tuxedos,” he says. “It’s challenging. And not too many people can do it.”
Jeff transitioned from a background in plumbing sales to building the Western Costume Supply Shop into a destination for costumers from around the world. He’s spent eight years anticipating costumers’ every need and making sure the supply shop meets it - whether it’s tailor’s chalk, fabric dye or silk underwear to keep performers warm on cold shooting days. “We carry stuff that’s available at other places, but if you were to shop for what we have in here, you’d have to go to twenty different stores,” Jeff explains.
Jeff ships merchandise to anywhere on the planet and offers free delivery to local productions. He also acts as General Manager of the facility, making sure every aspect of it meets Western Costumes’ high standards. But Jeff’s main claim to fame may be as creator of the aging product, “Schmere.”
Finding ways to make clean clothes dirty is just part of Jeff’s job, and so is carefully monitoring the changing supply needs of the costuming industry.
When Eddie Marks acquired the massive Dykeman-Young Collection, he knew exactly who he wanted to oversee it: veteran costumer Nancy McArdle.
Prior to being coaxed out of a short-lived retirement by Eddie in 2009, Nancy spent forty years as a costume professional. Her wardrobe credits include “The Last Picture Show,” and “The Godfather, Part Two.” She served as Costume Supervisor on such films as “Casino,” “Cat in the Hat,” and “Blades of Glory.”
Nancy helped Eddie Marks pack up and move the Dykeman-Young Collection from Jamestown, New York to a temporary location in North Hollywood. She spent a year sorting and organizing the collection while Eddie made room for it at Western. “It’s the best,” she raves. “The clothing is in beautiful condition and wearable sizes. There are lots of East Coast clothes, like vintage ski pieces that have never gone out. And it probably has the biggest collection of salt-and-pepper, blue collar twentieth century work clothes.”
Nancy has helped shows like “Mad Men” and “Magic City” dress their casts in Dykeman-Young pieces, as well as films ranging from “J. Edgar” to “42.” Customers who utilize Dykeman-Young will find more than an extraordinary array of costuming choice; they’ll also benefit from Nancy McArdle’s expertise regarding the collection.
Leaving her acting career behind and a Halloween birthday brought Christina into the costuming world. “After ten years as an actress, I decided to find a job,” she says. “My birthday is on Halloween. I found a costume house in Santa Monica called Make-Believe that needed some Halloween help and thought, ‘That’s perfect for me.’ “
In 2004, Christina left Make-Believe, a small company that catered mainly to the public, and joined Western Costume. She began as a regular stock person - filing, pulling, and sizing clothes. When her predecessor departed, Christina was the logical choice to run the department.
Christina takes meticulous care of her collection and has streamlined Women’s Stock, making it a breeze for costumers to pull whatever they need. “I labeled everything and made it user-friendly,” she explains. “I’ve color-coded each decade so costumers know where to find each piece.”
The hit TV series “Mad Men” shows the beautiful results of Christina’s labors, as do the recent movies “Django Unchained” and “Dark Shadows.” Christina also handles all the Halloween rentals at Western.
Mauricio Osorio, a master leather artisan, brought his extraordinary skills to Western Costume over thirty years ago. A native of El Salvador, shoemaking is a family tradition for Mauricio – his grandfather, father, and five brothers all share the same trade.
Mauricio trained at his family’s shoe factory for five years, then immigrated to America in 1973. He worked at a number of shoe factories before joining the Western Costume family in 1978. Mauricio can make anything in leather - from shoes and boots, to belts, handbags, and dresses. This talented artist can even make metal armor and jewelry.
Though piecework is customary in modern shoemaking, Mauricio’s shoes are constructed as one complete process which is what makes Western Costume’s world-class Custom Shoe department so unique. Mauricio and his team can take a pair of shoes from sketch to street. Their footwear has been featured in films like “True Grit,” “Cowboys and Aliens,” and “Captain America.” Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp and Shaquille “Shaq” O’Neill are just a few of the lucky stars shod by Mauricio and company.
“Every customer is different and my goal is to make each one happy,” says Mauricio.