Innocente Seraphim, or InnoSera for short, aims to be the first North American convention centered exclusively around ball-jointed dolls and Japanese fashion. With only a few weeks to go before InnoSera opens its doors, I thought that it was high time that I caught up with one of its primary organizers.
I first met Rillystar when she hosted a joint lolita/BJD tea party, held in Vancouver, B.C. At over thirty attendees, it was the largest organized lolita meetup I had attended, but it was also the most thought-out and organized meetup I had ever witnessed. When I heard Rillystar was in charge of the upcoming InnoSera, I knew the con would be in good hands. Rather than simply report on the upcoming InnoSera, I thought this would be a great opportunity to learn about it from Rillystar’s own perspective.
M. Could you please tell us a bit about InnoSera?
R. Sure! InnoSera is a brand new convention being hosted Aug 7-9 at the beautiful Bellvue Westin Hotel in Washington state. Basically much like how many anime and other similar fandom conventions started, we’re bringing together the community to celebrate Japanese street fashion as well as asian ball jointed dolls. Since Japanese street fashion is pretty broad, we’re focusing more on the lolita, aristocratic and similar styles you’d see in places like Harajuku.
M. Although this is the first convention of its kind in North America, various cons and other events in the west feature lolita-centered events. As an actual con, what do you think InnoSera brings to the lolita community that past events have not?
R. While other cons may feature one or two lolita events (typically a fashion show and perhaps a meetup), con goers really don’t get a chance to delve any deeper into fashion than a really very cursory overview – think of it as going to the movies to see something like “Mission Impossible” and catching a 2 minute trailer for say “Harry Potter”.
Fans of the fashion or even those just wanting to learn a little more don’t get much of a chance at other conventions simply because it’s not within the their scope. A convention of this kind gives attendees not only the chance to dig in deeper, share their thoughts and love for the genre but also a chance to meet designers and guests specific to their interest. Hand in hand with that all the programming is centered around Lolita fashions and ball jointed dolls. While not everyone may be interested in both, there’s plenty of things to do while at the convention to keep con goers entertained. Tea parties, fashion shows, workshops, panels and more!
Not only the programming but the exhibitors hall is also highly tailored to the demographic to suit their tastes. We’ve kept the lolita community close to heart as we planned out the convention, from the location and overall feel and look of the convention space to the types of guests and panelists that have been invited this year.
M. Speaking of ball jointed dolls, some people find it controversial to combine lolita with BJD. I gather that you don’t feel that there will be a conflict of interests when these two subcultures are brought together.
R. The way I look at it, we’re not trying to force the two communities together. While many enjoy both we’re very aware that not everyone may enjoy one or the other which is why the programming has been intentionally kept very separate. There is specific programming that targets one or the other genre which gives people the freedom to enjoy Lolita, dolls or both.
Looking at it from another standpoint, for the type of convention that lolitas would expect, and the level of quality of the space, amenities and events, there’s a reason why for the most part lolita themed events have only shown up as a small part of other larger conventions. Bringing two relatively small but in some ways connected communities gives us a lot more flexibility to be able to deliver on those expectations.
In some cases there is overlap – particularly when it comes to sewing techniques and accessory craft making (among other things). It’s handy to be able to bring in panelists and guests that can appeal to both sides of the equation and provide great workshops and oppertunies to both communites.
For example Baby, The Stars Shine Bright, is one of our headlining guests this year. A very popular lolita brand but what some lolitas may not know is that Baby has also designed and created dolls clothes for Volks, a popular Japanese ball jointed doll company. If both the lolita community and the doll community can have overlaps like this, it’s a great oppertunity to be able to provide fans the chance to get to meet them in person.
M. How did you get on board with this event?
R. I’ve been involved in event planning convention work for many years now. I’ve also been a part of both communities in one way shape or form for a good number of years. I’ve toyed with the idea of starting a new convention specific both lolita or dolls for probably just over 2 years now having taken a break from the convention planning circut after starting up Anime Evolution and completing my advisory stint with them. I’d actually mentioned the idea to limu and odanata in depth a few times in early `08 but it wasn’t until late last year that limu came to me and wanted to create a new convention with both.
To be honest I’d hesitated previously on holding a lolita or doll only convention for a number of reasons, especially having taken a look at the community base sizes and statistics from similar type events. However I’d not even realized that a lot of my worries came from looking at each as a separate entity. With the support of both communities, the outlook for a brand new convention looked much better. So I took the leap of faith and agreed to join the team when limu asked.
M. So I understand that you’re located in Vancouver, while the con itself will be held in Washington. Do you find it difficult to organize an event so far away from you?
R. Not really. I have a track record of doing so. I used to be heavily involved with Sakura con from 99 through to `04. I served my last year there as Vice Convention Chairperson (limu was incidentally the Con Chair at the time) so I’m used to the trek down south – though I have forked out for a Nexus pass because I’m impatient at the border and I hate having my car searched.
M. So InnoSera recently announced that in addition to Baby, the Stars Shine Bright having a table, Baby’s Chief Fashion Designer, Kumiko Uehara, is attending Innocente Seraphim as a Guest of Honor. How did you approach Baby for this collaboration?
R. We actually approached Baby quite some time ago through a formal inquiry. Because we’ve dealt with Japanese guests, companies and other firms before we decided that the more formal approach would be better. Sending a formal letter of invitiation with details about the convention and whatnot is generally the norm in this sort of situation. Also sending it in Japanese helps as well since much can be lost in translation, or delays when dealing with translators on their end.
While the process can sometimes be lengthy, we’re very happy to be able to bring Baby, The Stars Shine Bright to InnoSera this year. I personally enjoy their fashions very much and they’re one of my favorite brands. I hope that the attendees this year will also enjoy the chance to meet them in person.
M. Lastly, what do you see for InnoSera in the years to come?
R. Oh that’s hard to say. Of course there are many things we wanted to do this year but couldn’t, but I can say that from responses this year, that next year’s convention will be even more promising. I think we can expect a much larger exhibitor’s hall at the very least and a different lolita brand designer.
I’d like to give the community as many oppertunities as possible to meet many of the brands that they’ve fallen in love with over the years.
If InnoSera could one day rival something like Japan Expo or grow to be as powerful an event as other well established conventions I’d be extremely happy. As the convention grows I also hope that it will strengthen the community further and bring more people to love lolita fashion.
M. That would certainly be a dream come true for many! I wish you the best of luck for this year’s InnoSera, and I can’t wait to hear reports about how it all goes.
To find out more about InnoSera and register for the con, take a look at the website.