How did you become involved with cosplay?
When I was in college I ended up becoming friends with some local Univesity students who were setting up an anime society and kindly let me go along every so often. They then went on to hold a small convention where I was introduced to the world of cosplay. My occasional first ventures into cosplay were all just thrown together with charity shop clothes, cardboard boxes and duct-tape! I just admired the talented costumers from a distance, gradually becoming less and less involved in cosplay until by chance a friend pulled me back into the convention world just over 3 years ago, and I decided if I was going to continue cosplaying it was about time I learnt how to properly sew and make a costume myself!! I discovered Youtube and deviantart tutorials can teach you everything from sewing basics to advanced armour making and making your own wigs, if you’ve got the time to sit and learn.
What cosplay is your favourite and why?
My favourite costume is invariably the most recent large scale costume I’ve worked on. As time goes on I attempt more ambitious costumes that take more time, money and effort, so you become quite emotionally invested in whatever it is you’re working on. My new favourite costume is the one I’m working on for ECG, even though not a single part of it is completed, I love the materials I’ve found and the design of the costume.
What inspires you to choose your next cosplay?
Any number of things! If there is a particular character from a film, series or game that I think is especially cool in personality or costume, and I think I could do a good job of it then that’s usually a start. These days it’s usually film characters or the occasional game, since I don’t have as much time for anime or manga. Also film characters evoke a lot more recognition from a wider range of people, which can be a lot more rewarding.
What do you find the biggest challenge when making your cosplays?
The biggest challenge is usually figuring out the best way to realise the more complicated or unrealistic aspects of a particular design. Deciding what materials to use, learning certain techniques or trying something completely innovative in the hope that it’ll work! Sometimes it all comes together and sometimes it ends in disaster and you go back to square one and try again with something different! It’s satisfying when it goes right, but stressful along the way!
Do you think it is harder for boys to get recognition for their cosplays?
At a convention, or in a competition, male cosplayers can get as much peer recognition as female ones, for their skills and costumes. Although more widespread, it’s harder to get recognition or popularity as a male than as a female. Taking a girl and a guy of similar skill levels and looks, it’s likely that with majority male photographers and general non-cosplayer attendees around, the girl will get more photos at an event; and on a social network or forum, will receive a lot more attention and following generally. The ‘why’ is quite multi-faceted. Girls sell better than guys in everything, not just cosplay. On top of that, cosplay is quite gender imbalanced. There are more female cosplayers than male (especially those who make their own costumes), and many more male general attendees, photographers and fans than female. Female cosplayers can get recognition from both genders of cosplayers, as well non-cosplayers who just think they’re cool or hot. Guys tend not to get that same following, it’s often just people who admire a certain costume or skills of a male cosplayer who will follow them. You have to be immensely skilled or incredibly attractive as a guy to reach the level of popularity enjoyed by a wide variety of female cosplayers. There are a few… but not many!
You have participated in a lot of cosplay competitions, any advice for aspiring cosplayers looking to enter?
My first tip is just to enter! You never know who else will actually be there on the day, and you learn the most from being involved. The times when I’ve not won taught me where I could improve, and seeing what everyone else does inspired me to do better next time. My second tip is that if you’re going for a big competition, like Eurocosplay, European Cosplay Gathering, or World Cosplay Summit, that it’s worth researching the competition before you start. There are videos of all the previous finals (and a lot of the qualifiers) online, that give you a great idea of what kinds of costumes work well with different types of performances and what to generally expect. Plus some of them are just genuinely cool to see! Lastly, read the rules and plan realistically. Every competition has a slightly different marking scheme, and knowing what you’re getting marked on makes a big difference. It’s good to be ambitious, but it’s too easy to plan more than you can make, and end up rushing things or not having time to practice your performance. It’s much better to have a neat finished costume that’s a little simpler, and a perfectly timed smooth performance, than to have a very showy but unfinished costume, and a messy performance.
You have competed in both the UK and internationally, how did you find this differed from the UK? Did you have a preference?
In mainland Europe they’ve been doing mixed costume/performance competitions for many years, especially in Paris. So everyone is a lot more experienced, the stages are bigger and people are a lot more ambitious with what they try. I love performing at home because you get the support and recognition from the people you know, but it’s hard to compare that to the terrifying thrill of the massive catwalk at Japan Expo with 15,000 people watching you, or the Hague auditorium in the Netherlands, with it’s beautiful stage. Every country has its different culture and perspective to cosplay, and bringing those together in a competition you see some really fresh ideas that can be incredibly inspiring, also some incredibly bizarre ones! I’m hoping that now performance is a larger part of the Eurocosplay finals held at MCM Comic-Con, we’ll start to see more of that variety here too!
At Hyper Japan you and Laura won the ECG 2014 qualifier, how did this feel? Did you do anything to celebrate?
At the time I don’t think it sank in that we’d actually won. We’d both been working in every spare moment towards ECG, around our hectic work lives, and after we finally performed we just spent the few hours before the final announcement in a daze. Especially with the final being a full year away, it wasn’t until we sat down and started planning our finals costumes that it really sunk in that we were going to Paris together! I’d actually damaged my foot just before the qualifier so the celebrations were cut a bit short by a late trip to A&E to find out I had a few ripped ligaments! We’d booked a karaoke room for the evening after the qualifier anyway, so that we could go sing and party whether we won or lost, so we managed to squeeze in a couple of bad 90s pop songs to celebrate beforehand.
Tell me a bit about your Snow White and the Huntsman cosplay…
William’s costume actually came about more by circumstance than choice. My friend Laura Sindall, who is a very talented costumer, was working on Queen Ravenna’s costume, and asked if I’d like to join her for ECG. I hadn’t seen the film but jumped at the chance to work with her. The film was actually quite terrible, although the costumes were beautiful, and it was quite obvious that the character I suited best was the troubled Prince William. Also his costume ‘seemed’ quite simple so would give me a lot of movement to perform in compared to Laura’s ostentatious gown. However the costume itself took a lot longer to plan out than expected, since he only appears in the film for a few short scenes, so most of my references were screen-caps from behind the scenes footage, and it ended up having lots of annoying hidden details too! I ended up remaking the trousers three times to try and figure out the crazy seams!
Can you reveal what you plan to cosplay for ECG 2014?
Of course! Laura and I will be cosplaying Black Widow and Loki from The Avengers. I’ll be going for the fully armour Loki, horns and all!
What changes have you seen in the cosplay community over the years you have been participating?
Everything has gotten bigger – communities, recognition, fandoms, costumes and ambition. When I first saw cosplay, it was small groups of people. There wasn’t many cosplay websites and events were minor. There was a sense that you were doing something different, and it lacked any sense of competition, but costumes were mostly very basic. Also the public perception of it was very negative. Geek was one of the lowest social classes, and cosplay had quite a seedy tone due to some particular bad press. You wouldn’t have linked ‘cosplay’ with any sense of professionalism like some people aspire to today either. As time went on and the world opened up, more and more people got involved. The internet allowed for a proper sense of community to build, skills to be shared, and materials to become available. Like any community hobby in the modern world, competition and a pseudo-celebrity culture has sprouted too, but along with that the general public has become a lot more accepting. Partly helped by the influx of comic-book movies and shows like Big Bang Theory. Now is a great time to be a cosplayer. I think some people miss the quaint charm of the small past events and lament about all jaded negativity (which is again more a part of modern culture than cosplay specifically), but there’s no doubt that we’re better off now nonetheless. You can make an incredibly ambitious costume with readily available specialist materials, being supported by people all over the world. To the point that even an amateur cosplayer can aspire to gain the skills of a professional with dedication. There are fantastic photographers around, but also the available technology for beginners to learn those same skills, as well as the freedom to try things that no one else may have done, and then publicise that on the internet for tens of thousands of people to see. Plus now, that international recognition comes not just fellow cosplayers but from the general public too. That’s a big step forward. I can’t help but wonder where cosplay will be in another 10 years!
Photo Credits – Main Image – David Sheldrick, Brother Petro Tsupo, Howl and Sophie – So Say We All, Falk, King of Babylon – Yilei Wu, Huntsman and Evil Witch – Photography by Ian B, Superhero Andrei Guiamoy, Elrond – Pouncy Jellicle Vamp,