“I am very excited, and it was a big surprise,” says costume designer Alejo Vietti, who found out in December that he was the winner of the 2010 TDF/Irene Sharaff Young Master Award. “It was a great Christmas present,” he adds. The award, presented on April 23 at the Hudson Theatre in New York City by Vietti’s friend and mentor, Tony Award-winning costume designer Jess Goldstein, confirms Vietti’s place among the new generation of talented young designers.

“Alejo assisted me on several high-profile projects over a period of about five years, including Jersey Boys, Henry IV with Kevin Kline for Lincoln Center, and Julius Caesar with Denzel Washington on Broadway, and he brought so much talent and support to my work,” says Goldstein. “He has an amazing eye for detail. He cares about every aspect of a costume and enjoys the fun and puzzlement of considering all possible—and some impossible—options for each choice that is made. His energy and patience are relentless, and he has the charm to coax actors into wearing whatever he wants them to wear. I’m thrilled and so proud that he is now making such a great name for himself as a designer.”

Born in Argentina, where he attended law school before studying design, Vietti has worked in New York as well as in regional theatres for the past 12 years, honing his craft and penchant for period costumes. “I didn’t know anyone when I came to New York,” he admits. But sheer determination and calling designers for interviews led to a first small assignment shopping for Ann Roth, then assisting the likes of Catherine Zuber and Bob Crowley.

Recent projects range from The 39 Steps at the Alley Theatre—for which he gave Annabella a 1930s film noir look, glamorous and heightened—to Annie Get Your Gun for Goodspeed, and Rossini’s Il Turco in Italia at Wolf Trap, indicating a wide range of styles. “Research is a key part of my design process,” Vietti notes. “It is important to establish the director’s vision. Where is the production anchored, in a real time and place or in fantasy?”

In choosing fabrics, Vietti considers the nature of the costume, how it will be used, and how long it has to last. “What will happen to the costume determines if antique fabric, real lace, or silk can be used or not,” he says. For Ringling Brothers tiger trainer Vicenta Pages in Boom A Ring, Vietti created a long magenta coat. “After performing an aerial act, she had to get down to the cage with six tigers and needed something that she would be able to put on easily in front of the audience. The coat gave her a strong and powerful silhouette while keeping the femininity with the full skirt.”