Over the weekend, anime and manga enthusiasts and scholars flocked to MCAD for the Mechademia Conference on Asian Popular Cultures. The event, formerly known as SGMS (Schoolgirls and Mobile Suits), brings fans of Japanese pop culture together to celebrate and explore anime, manga, art, films, gaming, and fashion.
But the event is not just a bunch of fans fawning over the latest and greatest manga series -- it's got academic appeal, too. Mechademia director Frenchy Lunning describes the conference as a collection of scholars "discussing the prevalence of popular culture that goes global from Japan."
Lunning credits local fashion designer Samantha Rei with helping the conference's annual fashion show, Full Fashion Panic, grow into the event it is today. "When Samantha Rei took over the fashion show -- as we started to call it -- it became what it is now," says Lunning.
Rei, formerly a Lolita fashion designer, has transitioned into creating more mainstream clothing. However, her penchant for weaving the pieces in her collections together to create a story hasn't changed. This fall, she showed off her French forbidden lovers-inspired collection, Isabelle et Colette, at Envision. Rei's recent adoption of the mainstream hasn't hurt her knack for finding innovative and unique designers to flesh out Mechademia's lineup.
With humble beginnings of just a handful of cosplayers, Full Fashion Panic now brings fledgling designers inspired by Japanese popular culture to the forefront. "We're dedicated to showing designers that don't always get exposure to the public," says Lunning. This year, six designers showed off their collections on the runway, including Madkitsune Designs, Haus of Elle, Kinki Kitty, Punkktual, N By Payton, and [damn]aged.
A special addition to Saturday night's fashion show included one of the conference's guests of honor, Novala Takemoto. The renowned writer and fashion designer from Japan took the stage with his guitar, playing while his solo design collection Novalar's came down the MCAD runway.
Takemoto is "someone I've always admired for his brave stance on gender issues and his refusal to depend on tradition," says Lunning. Rei also cites Takemoto as a big influence during her early days as a designer.
We caught up with both Lunning and Takemoto to talk about the conference, the Lolita lifestyle, and MCAD in our video below:
Video production by Todd Wardrope for City Pages.
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