Welcome to the second of two monthly cosplay features. The first, our International Cosplayer Profile for Jan was Ani-Mia. Our second feature will profile popular and upcoming cosplayers from the UK. We will get a few details from them about what drives them and how they started and every UK Cosplayer Profile will feature an exclusive shoot.
Our first UK Cosplayer Profile is Emily Inferi. As well as being heavily into cosplay herself, she is an organiser for numerous cosplay and Japanese culture events, including the UK preliminaries for the World Cosplay Summit and the European Cosplay Gathering.
Alias/Handle: Emily Inferi
When did you get into Cosplay?
In 2001 – over a decade ago now!
How did you get in to Cosplay?
I first heard about it from a magazine article on the Tokyo Game Show. As soon as I knew what cosplay was, I wanted to try it! Then I heard about an anime convention in Liverpool through my local anime club and decided to put my first costume together. Back then there were only 10 or 12 cosplayers in the whole convention!
What was your first cosplay?
Sakura from Cardcaptor Sakura! I’ve always had a weakness for energetic, cute characters and it helped that I’ve always looked young for my age, haha. For the first two years of my cosplay life I cosplayed only as Sakura, doing different versions of her outfits.
Which has been your favourite cosplay to date?
Now that’s a difficult one. I usually go back and work on my costumes multiple times after I’ve made them so I rarely see a costume as “finished”. My preferences also change over time as I learn newer and better techniques. I did enjoy cosplaying Amy Rose from Sonic the Hedgehog and Medea from Dragon Quest VIII, since although they’re not particularly complex costumes, I was happy with the result and I had a lot of fun cosplaying those characters.
What has been your most difficult cosplay to date?
A few years ago I was given a task from my friend who’s a DVD publisher to make Cutie Honey (from the live action film) for the DVD release. It was very challenging trying work out how the different parts of fabric fitted together to make the bodysuit. I was on a strict time limit and was given a budget of just £50, when usually it would cost me around four times that to make a costume! I battled through and luckily managed to get it finished on time with the help of a couple of friends.
What’s the shortest amount of time you’ve ever spent producing a cosplay?
A couple of times I’ve made a costume in one or two days, usually if some event crops up at the last minute. In 2010, Goldy (a famous Japanese cosplayer known for his mecha suits) was visiting the UK to help judge the final of the Eurocosplay Championship. It turned out my friend knew him, and she had an idea for us to perform as Sheryl and Ranka from Macross Frontier to go with the Valkyrie unit he was bringing from Japan. We had only a couple of days to make the costumes and rehearse the song, but it was worth it to be able to perform alongside one of my cosplay idols!
What’s the longest amount of time you’ve ever spent producing a cosplay?
Probably my costume of Sailor Mars from Sera Myu (Sailor Moon the Musical), since I wasn’t happy with my first attempt and ended up remaking it. So technically it was like making two costumes…
How many cosplays on average do you produce a year?
About three or four, maybe less if it’s a busy year.
Do you set targets for your cosplays at the start of the year, or for specific conventions, or just produce them as you find the time, or find inspiration?
It depends on which events are coming up. If there’s a contest I want to enter or if my friends have invited me to join a group then of course I’ll try to plan everything out in advance. If not, then I just make the costumes at my own leisure. If I have no particular target date for a costume, then it can take anything from a few weeks to a couple of years depending on when I feel like working on it. Whilst it may be a very inefficient way of working, I get the most personal enjoyment out of it that way.
Talk us through your usual cosplay producing routine, do you spend time on planning, gather all the materials and then start, or do you produce as you go?
Before I start I usually spend a few days researching the costume, gathering lots of reference pictures and deciding which techniques and materials to use. The only thing I don’t plan out is my time – I just buy the materials as I go along and start working on it. However that means I always end up finishing something or other at the last minute, no matter how much time I allocate for it!
What cosplay would you like to do, but have never had the time/money/knowledge to produce?
Lulu from Final Fantasy X – that has always been my dream cosplay! Not least because I’d need a full body transplant to pull it off, hehe. There are a few girly mechs I’d like to do in future when I have a bit more experience at making armour – I’m a diehard Sega fangirl so Fei-Yen (Virtual On) and Elenor (Phantasy Star Online) are top of my list.
Why do you cosplay, what draws you to it?
Everything really! Since I was a child I’ve spent a lot of my free time crafting things, playing video games, dressing up and performing – so it’s a hobby which combines everything that I love! I also love the challenge of taking something 2D and creating a vision of what I think it would look like in real life. I think that’s why I’m drawn more to anime and video game characters than those from film and TV.
What is your favourite cosplay memory?
I always think back to the first time I cosplayed in France (many years ago now). I was dressed as Sakura, and was walking through the food court at a shopping centre near the convention when a little girl on the balcony above got very excited and started shouting (in French) “look Mum, it’s Sakura!” That moment just sums up the best part of cosplay for me – giving enjoyment to people by bringing their favourite characters to life in some way.
Any bad cosplay experiences and lessons learned from it?
My only bad experience was in Japan last year, when I went to summer Comic Market. It’s one of the biggest comic book / cosplay events in the world and they have strict rules about where you can take photos in cosplay. It was my first time there and I really wanted to get some photos of my costume in the famous roof area. I was in a group with some Japanese friends, and all the staff kept giving us wrong directions. They ended up directing us up two floors, down again and into a one-way system in the middle of the most crowded cosplay area, so I had to drag my luggage through groups of people while they were taking photographs – and that was before we even got to the changing room! We were walking around lost for over 3 HOURS and when we finally reached the right area we discovered that A: the roof area wasn’t open that day, B: it had ironically been right near the entrance all this time and C: it was now closing time so we weren’t allowed to take photos anyway. We had missed the whole convention and were so disappointed. I guess we learned that next time we should go the day before and memorise the area so that we don’t have to rely on directions from the Comiket staff!
What is your favourite convention to cosplay at and why?
I really like Japan Expo in France – I’ve been going there for over 10 years now and I never seem to lose enthusiasm for it! I guess it’s because it’s the biggest convention in Europe, so they always have famous guests and the standard of cosplay is amazing. Their cosplay staff are so helpful and nice too – they really put the effort in to make sure we’re well looked after.
In the UK, I especially like Ayacon – the venue is fantastic with lots of outdoor space and a huge stage, and they always try to put on new and fresh events. Sadly this year is their last one though! And of course I have to say HYPER JAPAN because I’m their cosplay coordinator – not that I ever get time to cosplay there myself, but I enjoy watching the masquerade and seeing the phenomenal effort that goes into everyone else’s costumes.
Any advice for new cosplayers?
I could go all day on this subject, but there’s three pieces of advice I’d like to give:
- Cosplay is about recreating the character, not just the costume. It doesn’t matter if you make or buy your costumes, but I recommend taking some time to practise applying make-up, styling wigs and posing in character. That way you’ll get better photographs and feel more confident in your cosplay.
- Costume making is all about trial and error. There are some talented individuals jammy gits who manage to make an award-winning Trinity Blood ballgown for their first costume, but sadly most of us aren’t that lucky. Even after 11 years I learn something new each time! Just start slow, enjoy the learning process and don’t worry if you make a mistake. There are lots of online tutorials and forums which can help you if you get stuck.
- Keep it in perspective. When you first start out as a cosplayer, all that attention and creative energy can be addictive. It’s easy to get caught up in wanting to attend every convention, join every cosplay group and make a costume from every new game or series that comes out. However, cosplay requires a lot of time and money, so overdoing it can make it seem like more of a chore than a hobby. If it’s taking priority over your work or school life then it’s time to slow down. Remember it’s not a race or a popularity contest – you can always attend that convention next year!
Any advice for cosplay photographers?
Talk to the cosplayers beforehand to find out what kind of shot they want to get and give them enough time to relax and get into character. It’s also a good idea to give the cosplayers positive feedback or suggestions as you’re shooting and let them check the photos every so often so they know so they can correct their pose or adjust their costume if they need to. If you’re taking snaps at a convention, try and take the cosplayers aside to a quiet area with a good background. I’ve seen so many convention photos ruined by a dustbin or similar item invading the shot! Some basic lighting equipment such as a reflector and flash gun also goes a long way, especially in the UK where even outdoors we’re often shooting in low light conditions.
Emily Inferi Exclusive Cosplay Shoot
The shoot below was photographed by StealthBuda and editied by Emily Inferi. We were lucky enough to be allowed to shoot in Temple Church, London. Emily Inferi is cosplaying Noel Vermillion from the popular fighting game BlazBlue.