This is actually last week’s Lolita Blog Carnival topic; but somehow, between packing for my move, visiting my family and attending a baby shower, I totally missed out on getting the entry written. However, I really wanted to write about this topic. So, some background; I’ve been interested in lolita since 2008/2009 ish. I’ve attended Otakon and Katsucon fairly regularly since then. I also attended Frill every year it existed, and Rufflecon every year so far (though sadly, I won’t be able to make it this year). I’ve also attended a handful of large meetups and parties, like the recent East Coast Mega Meet and Nightfall.
So what things make for a great event? Here are some of my favorite things to see at conventions / events, what I like and don’t like about them, and some things that I don’t think add much value.
Swap Meet / Consignment
I love being able to sell stuff to other lolita in person. Shipping is expensive. Listing stuff online is time consuming and requires you to really be on top of things 24/7. I’m busy. I work a lot. I don’t always have the time to take measurements, invoice someone and ship stuff the same day someone sees something on Lacemarket. I also like looking at items in person. That said, there are somethings I really hate about how Swap Meets and Consignment rooms I’ve done in the past have been done. First of all, I like consignment rooms more than swap meets because you don’t have to sit with your stuff and look at stuff at the same time. Also, I’ve never been to a swap meet that wasn’t actually breaking the convention rules and eventually broken up, moved or warned by the staff because we technically couldn’t do more than trade and someone somewhere had handed someone some cash. That said, my ideal consignment room would:
- Charge a flat fee or a percentage only on items sold
- Handle the checkout / buying via central checkout system, then pay out later
- Have an item tag template that I can fill out, print, and tag my items with at home.
- Be in a large space where you can walk around people who are looking
- Have some way to display accessories that isn’t a table / book case. Tables quickly dissolve into chaos. A wire grid wall + clothes pins + ziplocks makes things much easier to see
- Have good lighting!
- Have people who reset displays / racks if someone messes them up (though having good displays minimizes the need for this)
- Should be a given, but have clothing racks for the clothing!
One of the main reasons I attend lolita conventions is to buy from indie brands. Also, I help out my girlfriend with her sales booths a lot. I love seeing a wide variety of brands offering things for sale, especially brands which are hard to buy from or from overseas. That said, there are some caveats to this. The booths/tables need to be priced for what they are. While tables/booths do generate some revenue for an event, the price has to be reasonable compared to the profits the indie brands are going to make, and compared to the space they get. A table, with no option to put up a garment rack (so basically an AA booth), is terrible for selling clothes. It’s ok for accessories, but unless you are selling small necklaces and stuff you really can’t fit that much on a table. And unless someone is really good, they probably don’t have a very high profit margin on small accessories. That means they have to sell a lot of stuff to make up the table cost. A table with the option to bring your own garment rack is fine for a short event, or for a small brand. However, if the event is more than a few hours, an actual booth space is the best set up for indie brands, IMHO. That said, it takes time (and stuff) to set up a booth. A single booth at a convention like Rufflecon or Nekocon can take us ~5 hours to set up, because it involves hauling in and setting up the fixtures. For a 2-3 day event, with like a 8-ish hour sales day, it’s totally worth the effort because you can get a lot of merchandise out and well displayed, and that translates in to more sales. But it’s only worth it if the prices are reasonable for the larger booths.
Having a way for people to remote sell is great too, but only if there is someone who is standing in for the designer and merchandising the space. Frill had a remote vending room, but there was no one really actively making sure everything in the room was merchandised well, so things started to look messy pretty quickly.
On a side note, remote vending needs signage! People know and recognize the names of brands / indie brands, so having the names up is a draw. It’s also a way for the brands that are remote vending to get their name out there, so having signage (and ideally business cards or their web shop url) by their items can help potential customers learn their names and connect with them even if they don’t buy something during the event.
I like panels, but they need to be interesting and well done. Lolita 101 is fine for an anime convention, but I’ve seen some really clueless lolita 101 panels. I’d love to see Anime conventions reaching out to local lolita groups for input (we tend to know who among us are experts and who is a 14-year-old lolita-at-heart that hasn’t ever worn the fashion). That’s not to say that someone new to lolita can’t host a panel; but pairing someone newer who is enthusiastic with someone more experienced can help to avoid spreading common newbie misinformation.
For lolita specific events, I prefer workshops and “fun”/”game” panels to informational panels. The only thing is, every convention I’ve ever gone to that has workshops that I want to do, has always been full, or I’ve needed to be somewhere else at the same time. Informational panels also seem to take a really long time to put together presentations for. I’ve put together a few that had abysmal attendance, only to have people continue to ask me to put together more and more panels that require more and more research and prep. So, I guess, what I’d really like to see is more of a push towards panels that attendees actually care about!
I love brand fashion shows, and I love indie brand fashion shows, but please, please whoever is planning a fashion show out there, please have these things with the lights on! Fashions shows aren’t high school drama productions that need mood lighting, I want to see the clothes!
Also, I totally get that some conventions don’t have the budget for a stage, or guests or anything, but a fashion show that is just a handful of people wearing stuff out of their closets isn’t really my cup of tea. It can be a good intro for a 101 panel, and I guess people who are new to the fashion might find it interesting… but I find it boring. It’s basically a coord contest I can’t vote on, or a meetup where I can’t talk to anyone.
Skipping back to brand / indie brand fashion shows though, longer is not better. I’d much rather see a shorter fashion show that only features the best of the best than a show that goes on for hours and hours. I’ve seen some conventions try to mix up the stronger and weaker designers so that people will sit through the whole thing, and I while I get the sentiment of trying to be nice and create an audience for the less popular designers, from an audience member point of view, it’s cruddy. Last year at rufflecon I got sick from not eating and had to sneak out in the middle of the show to get lunch, and the year before I was over exhausted / over heated and left in the middle to change. Granted, I do have some health issues and I am running a rougher schedule than the average attendee (helping in a booth means getting up early, plus the extra physical labor), but still. I also wish the acts had been sorted out more; I sat through some things I didn’t really care about and missed some things I did because the show was just too long.
The other thing about fashion shows is that they eat up a lot of the model’s time at the event. Anything that can be done to mitigate that should be done, IMHO. Don’t make every model sit through every brand’s practice run if it means hours of sitting around, and report times can be staggered for a very long show too.
Which brings up another thing, there has got to be adequate space backstage for the models to get ready. So many convention fashion shows fail on this point. Another area where they tend to have issues is hair and makeup. Often conventions promise hair and makeup will be done by pros back stage, and then the day of it’s like two people trying to do up 50 models in an hour, and they aren’t getting paid for it. Also, mirrors, garment racks, non-messy snacks and water (especially if models are stuck backstage for hours and even more importantly if they miss lunch time or dinner time because of it), and electric outlets are so useful!
And random side note: bloomers or modesty shorts on everyone if there is a catwalk / stage. The audience sits lower than the models. We can totally see up their skirts. Please, please, models, wear bloomers.
I think tea parties, as events in and of themselves are sometimes nice, and I like tea parties as a way to spend time up close with a designer from a brand, but when it’s a tea party tacked onto a convention, and there is not a designer guest, I really don’t care that much. I recently went to a mega meet that had a cafe selling food and tables set up and you just bought food and ate whatever, whenever. Nightfall, on the other hand, had a buffet. Both of those situations were great, IMHO. I always feel a tiny bit stressed at tea parties. I want to talk to people and be social, but you have to stay seated and courses just keep coming and going and if you don’t eat your scone right then, someone is going to whisk it away, and you spent $60 for this half sandwich, 4 strawberries, and three tiny pastries, so I mean, it’s really not the time to be talking and eating too slow and missing a course. And then, the tables are either tiny so you can only talk to like 3 other people, or so big that you have to talk quite loudly for people on the other side of the table to hear you.
I think part of the problem as well is that people just try to make tea parties way too big. I get that in a convention setting, a lot of people want to attend, but I’d rather see an event have two smaller tea parties (back to back or on separate days, either is fine) with the guests at both, then a huge, over full room.
I’ll attend concerts if they exist and the singer is good or a lolita model / designer, but I don’t really care about them that much. I think the only person I’ve seen that I really cared about was Anna Tsuchiya, and that was more because of how much I enjoyed the anime Nana when I was younger. I’d rather not see them at events though because I know they cost a lot and eat up a lot of the event budget.
Panels Run by Japanese Guests
I’ve been to so many panels that have titles like “Akira teaches you about Boystyle” or “Marketing and Branding with the Marketing Manager of Putumayo”, and you show up and the guest doesn’t seem to have any idea that they are supposed to be giving a presentation. I’d love to see panels like this, but the guests need to know ahead of time and be able to prepare a presentation (and they need to want to do it).
The other kind of panel run by a guest is a typical Q&A panel. There needs to be a strong translator for these, and a moderator. Let the audience ask questions, of course, but if the audience seems to be stuck, the moderator should jump in with a really interesting, strong question. Not “what is your favorite food”; prepared things at least as strong as stuff like “You use a lot of butterflies in your work, if there any special significance of this motif for you?” or “Can you tell us about the early history of your brand?”.
This is a kind of silly one, but I really like conventions where you can easily buy food without a long walk or a long line. I get tired a lot faster than the average person, and I tend to run myself ragged at conventions. It’s not uncommon for me to literally be blacking out at the end (or in the middle of) the day. Anything that makes it easier to get basic necessities like decent food, water, and rest is a plus in my book.
On the other side of this, I’ve had food available to me as a VIP attendee at some events, like Frill, but it was off in a specific place away from the main events and poorly advertised, so I didn’t get to take advantage of it, so it was a waste of money for me.
Speaking of VIP perks, I’ve been a VIP at least one year at both Frill and Rufflecon. Things like early / VIP seating for the fashion show is usually a perk. It’s also one I’ve never gotten to use. I’m not going to ask someone to move out of a VIP seat when I come in late and non-VIPs have been able to move into VIP spaces, and I’m also not usually able to go into shows early because I help out. Same with VIP early access to vendor’s hall. I’ve typically been inside the vendor’s hall when it started, had to leave, queue up outside at the end of the line, and missed out. Or, when I haven’t been helping with a booth, you have to wake up early. I don’t like waking up early. I distinctly remember showing up early for VIP shopping at Frill half dressed one year. Swag bags are also a thing. I love getting little things from Japanese designers. But random drugstore makeup and poorly made things from American indie brands are pretty “meh” as prizes, mostly because they are often things I don’t want. Nail polish or eye shadow I will never wear, that someone clearly spent some of my ticket money on, feels like a waste of money. Likewise, I’d rather buy something I like from an indie designer than get a canotier. I can’t pull off a canotier. I especially can’t pull off a completely flat canotier in navy x cornflower blue. (I believe I did pick dark blue for that one, but I had no idea what I was getting in dark blue). However, I have gotten event specific things, or small things handmade by Japanese designers and I absolutely adore those things!
Coordinate Contest, Scavenger Hunts and Card Exchanges
One year at frill there was a coordinate contest that you either entered by dressing up a mannequin or yourself, but it was themed, so you had to like pack extra clothing. It didn’t work very well, IMHO. I like coordinate contests by secret ballet at smaller events, but you really have to assign everyone a number or something. It’s rare for everyone to know everyone’s names. I don’t think this works well for a larger event though.
I love scavenger hunts and I think they are a great ice breaker! I especially like the ones where there is a prize. Not specifically lolita related, but Sailor Moon has been doing ones at Anime conventions where you have to find a specific cosplayer related to the company and get a card stamped and it’s super hard. I try so hard, but I always end up stuck in the dealer’s hall and it’s hard to find them all if you never leave! The megameet I went to earlier this month had one too and the prize was a little enamel pin; it was super cute.
I also really like calling card exchanges, but they seem to be a sort of old-school thing. I wish we could bring those back; I want to get little cards with everyone’s blogs and social media and stuff on them so I can follow them. ♥
Realistically, I care the most about designers of brands that I follow the most. It’s cool and all to have a guest who doesn’t come to many events but 9 times out 10, I’d rather see Maki and Asuka than someone who I don’t buy clothing from regularly. Also, I’m sick of seeing Misako. Akira, or Midori or Yura or Yuri instead, please!
By which I mean good lighting + a back drop +/- a photographer + some sort of sign that lets people know they can take photos or have their photo taken there for free (or for money if that’s the way it goes). I’m never certain when there is a photography set up at a convention if it’s a thing where you walk up and ask, or if the photographer is selecting people they want to photograph. I just want a coord photo to post to my FB or tumblr. Like, I’m totally realistic about the fact that I’m chubby and I take terrible photos, and I’m not really the sort of person any sort of fashion photographer cares about and I’m 100% ok with that. But like, I went to rufflecon for three years and never actually stumbled upon what exactly the photo area set up there was. Do they ask you? Do you ask them? Is it a photographer for the con? For simplicity? I haven’t the foggiest idea. XD
In closing, I’m getting old, and I’m grumpy and I’m tired, so of course, take this with a grain of salt, but these are my rambling feelings about lolita conventions written at midnight, two days late. I’d say I’ll try to do better, but who are we kidding, I’ve been late to post like half of the LBC posts I’ve done.
Other blogs participating in this theme:
♥ Cupcake Kamisama’s Lolita World ♥