Passion Fuels Unplugged Expo
The Chestnut Conference Centre in downtown Toronto was abuzz September 27th and 28th with the 3rd Unplugged Expo, which caters to a smaller, niche community of Anime, Cosplay, Gamers, and LARP fans. Make no mistake, though; this Expo was very much alive and vibrant.
What really stood out was the number of individuals who have a passion for cosplay and the outstanding costumes they designed and created. Many have studied fashion design at college and, unable to find work in the fashion industry, created their own in the cosplay world. These (mostly) young women are using their skills learned from college and applying them in cosplay design and manufacture, not only for themselves but costumes on commission for others. The time, care, effort, planning and attention to detail that goes into the manufacture of the costumes is impressive.
Jade, from Porcupine Design, is a model/cosplayer/costume designer. She rocked a Batman Returns era Catwoman costume in stretch PVC which looked exactly like the one Michelle Pfeiffer wore, even down to homemade claws attached to each finger on the gloves. On the downside, one can only imagine the costume is a sweat factory as it’s made from non-breathable PVC.
One of the more interesting panel discussions at Unplugged was “Cosplay is not Consent” headed by Roxy Lee of Geek Girls, an online cosplay community. The focus of the panel was to empower cosplayers to avoid, prevent, deal with, and speak out against inappropriate social behaviour of a sexual and/or stereotypical nature for themselves and fellow cosplayers. Harassment is a common experience at expos and conventions. While it seemed natural that many sexually derogatory comments online and in person would be from men, it was surprising to hear that a majority of comments are from women. It seems these women believe some cosplayers aren’t “real gamers” if they wear makeup or prance about half nude; the sentiment being a woman who doesn’t do those things are more geek than those who do. The other common complaint from women is the “I did it first” comment, where the some perceive others have copied their costume designs, as well as bodyshaming those who pose for body painting photos.
Lee says Cosplay culture is one of fun, creativity, and mutual respect; unfortunately, not everyone adheres to the last tenet. Wearing revealing costumes is not an invitation for sexual or inappropriate comments. She encourages new and veteran coplayers to speak out, speak up, and help keep cosplay comfortable and fun.
Unplugged Expo was a fun event that continues to grow every year and appears to have found a nice home at the Chestnut Conference Centre. It was enjoyable to see both vendors and attendees really enjoy themselves in a smaller event that shared the same energy and passion as its larger expo and con counterparts.