Written by Cheryl Cottrell-Smith
As a former freelance lifestyle journalist, I’ve been to a few fashion shows in my time. I’ve written about seasonal trends, interviewed local designers, and sat beside my fair share of runways. For the most part, they can be pretty similar: military-trained stick figures, reverberating mood music, and edgy, ambitious designs.
Studio Aranas’ Cosplay and Japanese Fashion Show, on the other hand, with its intimate locale and handful of designers with a focus on cosplay and eastern style, was a refreshing change from the traditional runway show. Not only did the event focus specifically on elements of fashion that are usually only touched upon by traditional runway designers (i.e. cosplay and lolita), but many of the models were regular people just having a good time. It’s one thing to wear a sleek dress in a room of fashion-forward people; it’s quite another to parade around as Queen Amidala in a room full of pop culture fans, friends, and family.
While the fashion show offered an in-depth exhibition of several intricate cosplay designs by Michelle Everett (KawaiiBakaNekoDesu Cosplay Group) and Aysha Wu (Cossha Cosplay), as well as the stylings of the Edmonton Lolita Fashion Community, it also showcased the lines of local designer Heather Curtis (Solstice Ready to Wear) and fashion distributor Carole Yue (Chem Lab: Clothing). Guests were treated to a lithe and sexy performance with the show’s last line of the night, Chem Lab, during which the models chose to dance rather than walk, adding a fun and visually stunning element to the end of the event.
“I’ve modeled in the past but this was my first time organizing a showcase,” says Carole. “It was really fun seeing the other side of it. I think the show went really well! A lot of people weren’t expecting [certain things] to happen, so I think it was pretty enjoyable for everyone.”
Augustine Arañas, founder of Studio Aranas and head photographer, is no stranger to fashion nor cosplay. His work has been published in magazines such as Xpressions, Gleam, and Surreal Beauty, and his portfolio includes plenty of local models and cosplayers. But despite his background in photography, Augustine stepped back from the lens for this event, focusing on overall management and leaving the images in the hands of Marthonee and Stephanie Chan.
“I think what was really successful about the show was how well everything came together; we had everything from armoured costumes and fancy dresses to Japanese street fashion and avant-garde styles walking the runway,” says Augustine. “It was incredible seeing such a huge range of looks come together into an event.”
The importance in holding a show like this, say several of the designers and models, is in bringing a unique aspect of pop culture to a new kind of audience. Cosplay, for example, is pervasive throughout nerd culture and, while many people are aware of it, few seem to realize just how much work it takes to create some of these costumes. Many cosplayers craft and sew their own designs and the hours of work going into these costumes can be immense.
“I think it’s nice to normalize cosplay, in a sense,” says Aysha. “There’s still a bit of a stigma around people who make costumes and dress up–people think it’s weird. It’s nice to go to fashion shows and stuff and see that this is a legitimate thing. People work really hard!”
“It’s really great to show how it’s such an art,” says Shelly Wong, one of Michelle Everett’s models and a cosplayer at Picklesbird Cosplay and Creations. “Cosplay is such a big thing, especially in Edmonton; for whatever reason, the city’s just full of cosplayers. To have it out there and let people know it’s a thing [is great], so that if they want to join they’re more than welcome to. It helps build the community up.”
If you happened to miss the show, don’t fret; plans are in the works to make this an annual occurrence.
“Overall, we’re hoping to change everything bigger and better; we’re already starting to look at bigger venues and getting a lot more people involved,” says Augustine. “We’re hoping to make it an annual event, so just expect a lot more cosplayers, designers, stylists, and other incredible talent in the next show.”
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Cover photo and all images in article by Marthonee Padua.