Secretive Shop In California Designs The Latest Halloween Costumes

By Roger Showley
The San Diego Union-Tribune

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As Roger Showley reports, you can’t shop at the costume store “Disguise”, but if you’re in the retail business or lucky enough to get inside, you’ll see what’s been hot this year and what might be trendy next Halloween.

POWAY, Calif.

A nondescript tan and white industrial park building in Poway is where Halloween revelers are transformed into an Incredible, a Disney princess, Mario or Donald Trump.

But it is not a local dressing room or seasonal pop-up costume shop.

It’s the headquarters of Disguise, a secretive company where about 65 cosplayers, technicians, computer wizards and assorted “creatives” take TV, movie and video game characters and turn them into Halloween outfits for toddlers, millennials and baby boomers.

You can’t shop at Disguise, but if you’re in the retail business or lucky enough to get inside, you’ll see what’s been hot this year and what might be trendy next Halloween. Disguise is not a seasonal business.

“It’s Halloween all year round,” said Pauline Cuevas in the graphics department.

It’s been only in the last couple of decades that costume retailing has graduated from being a largely mom-and-pop business to one dominated by a few manufacturers, such as Disguise, which says it has 25 to 30 percent of the market. (Rubie’s Costume in Melville, N.Y., is the nation’s biggest customer manufacturer.)

The companies take their cues from pop culture and compete for licenses from big movie, TV, video game and toy companies.

The day of the do-it-yourself costume is giving way to time-challenged households where kids want to look like a Ninja Turtle or Zelda, princess of Hyrule. The generic ghost, witch and zombie just won’t do. Costumes designed by Disguise end up in big box retailers like Target, Walmart and Party City, and in pop-up Halloween stores.

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