Costume characters have always been a part of the scene at New York Comic Con and each year cosplay becomes bigger. The costumes take sometimes thousands of hours to create and cost several hundred dollars.
This year at the “con” long established pattern companies Simplicity and McCall’s each have large booths in key locations on the exhibition floor. Fabric company Cosplay Fabrics.com is next to McCall’s and brought cosplay celebrity Yaya Han to draw attention to their products.
It is estimated that half a million people engage in cosplay worldwide. If each of these players made just one costume, it translates into a $250 million industry. However, most cosplayers make several outfits.
Booths were teeming with fans as alternative fashion designers flocked to look at patterns created with cosplay in mind. McCall’s had their custom cosplay patterns available using professional photos with oversize envelopes and sturdy pattern paper. Normally these patterns are only available online.
Stacey Long, the senior vice president of sales and marketing said, “The response has been tremendous. This has been our customer for a long time, but we weren’t really addressing them.” She noted that the traditional costume patterns were used by cosplayers, but these improvements were directly related to what the customers were telling them.
Simplicity created a retro fifties diner look to its booth complete with jukebox and mannequins wearing vintage style dresses. The company wanted to display some of its vintage patterns that are suitable for today’s costume looks. A Brother sewing machine was also in the booth demonstrating a costume being sewn and there was a contest to win the machine.
One challenge for cosplayers is getting the right fabric for the creations. “We have a lot of four-way stretch materials, materials with special finishes,” said Sean Burgess, director of marketing at Cosplay Fabrics.com. “We just released the fall lineup and this one is called our desert genre.” It’s a heavy gauze material with a nice worn look that would easily fit into a Star Wars outfit or Game of Thrones. “We saw it as a whole category that wasn’t being addressed,” he said. Typical fabric stores may carry gauze, but it isn’t heavy and aged looking.
The company is exclusively sold at Jo-Ann Fabrics and directly on its own web site. It offers premium fabrics that are only available online for players that strive for accuracy.
Professional cosplay celebrity Yaya Han made an appearance at the fabric booth and a line quickly formed to get her autograph. “I quit my boring, salaried job in 2005 to start a custom costume commission business,” said Han. “It grew from there and now I have a whole line of copyrighted products.” Han is paid for her convention appearances where she assists in programming and hosting and judging costume contests. She also has a line of branded fabrics with Cosplay Fabrics.com.
Another booth drawing a lot of attention was Volante Design Inc. Founder Willow Volante calls her clothes ‘superhuman streetwear.’ The styles are inspired by comic book and video game characters. “Our typical customer is adult fans and gamers,” she said. “Comic Con is a great event for people to see who you are and get some traction. We also do sales on the floor here.”
Lolita’s continue to be a strong presence at the con. The Lolita style grew out of Japanese streetwear and is characterized by its frilly and sweet little girl look. Emma Botari, chief executive officer of the Lolita Collective said that it’s mainly worn by young women between the ages of 13-25. Botari runs the design collective that includes 80 different designers from around the world that specialize in this and gothic Lolita, which she referred to as ‘Golita.’
Botari has a degree in fashion design and worked as a designer for smaller companies before deciding to be a distributor. She also helps the up-and-coming designers with managing their production by researching textiles and helping with the manufacture of garments.
In addition to Lolita’s, there were a fair amount of steampunk designers represented. Overall, the most popular costume for women this year was Harley Quinn. It was about 60 percent classic Harley and about 40 percent were the Suicide Squad version. Even though this was the 75th anniversary of Wonder Woman with an exhibition of costumes at the con, very few women choose to dress as the iconic superhero.