J.Hart Design, USA

J-Popcon 2015 - Guest Profile

Name: Joshua Hart
Nationality: United States of America
Line of profession: Assistant Fashion Designer
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When and how did you first hear about anime and manga?

As a child, I grew up with Pokémon, Sailor Moon, and Dragon Ball Z; anime has always been an integral part of my Saturday morning cartoon line-up. These shows shaped my childhood by providing entertainment and humour. Even today, they still hold a very dear place in my heart. During high school, I worked in a library and I was always drawn to the beautiful covers from the colourful manga shelves. It was the artwork that initially captured me.

What anime/manga made the biggest impression on you?

Paradise Kiss is easily my favourite manga/anime. I have yet to read, or see, anything that had affected me so deeply or personally. I read this series during college, at a pivotal point of my academic career. Becoming strengthened and encouraged by the characters progression in the series, I was given the fortitude to change my major and become a fashion designer. The manga’s hyper realistic storyline focusing on the lives of four fashion students and their model is a touching, bittersweet, and optimistic.

What is cosplay to you and how did you get started?

Personally, cosplay is the ultimate form of creativity, self-expression, passion, and performance art. It is a visual and mental approach to portray and showcase your love for a series or character. It is a hobby which allows me to revel in the process of creation, provides a sense of personal achievement, and brings me closer to the characters I adore. Through cosplay, I learned couture sewing techniques, corsetry, utilizing interfacings, understructures, draping, and patterning, as well as the basic sewing foundations. It forced me to seek answers, experiment, and to play with materials. And, ultimately, it is the reason I advanced in the fashion industry so quickly.

I began cosplaying in high school when I was 15. Many of my friends in theatre attended Otakon at the Baltimore Convention Center and I was asked to go. I knew nothing about conventions, but I was told everyone dresses up as their favorite characters. I have always loved the Renaissance Festivals and Halloween; and I love playing dress-up. I was so excited! I cosplayed as Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy 7: Advent Children; my friends cosplayed as other characters from the same series. I taught myself how to knit for that costume. I took the initiative to dedicated all my spare time to this newfound "hobby".

What is your most memorable cosplay experience?

My most memorable cosplay experience was at Otakon 2009 when I debuted by Trinity Blood group. I have always been in absolute love with Thores artwork and this project was well above my skill level. It forced me to stretch my creativity and knowledge base; I learned so many new techniques during the 9 months of nonstop work. While I was standing in line, waiting to be judged for the Hall Costume Contest for my Esther, Catherina, and Dietrich cosplays, the largest sense of accomplishment, fulfilment, and pride washed over me. These costumes that seemed insurmountable turned into beautiful garments, a walking homage to my favourite artist and series. I look back on that time fondly.

What would be your dream costume to make?

I have so many costumes on my Wish-List; but one costume has remained on this for years. I would absolutely love to make Esther Blanchet’s Pearl and Rose Queen gown from Trinity Blood. I have never tackled this project due to the grandiose scale and overwhelming amounts of beading. But one day, hopefully in the near future, I will undertake this challenge!

Are there any specific cosplayers out there you hold in high regard?

I love following other cosplayers, especially those who harbour traits or skills that I admire or wish to learn. Kamui Cosplay, Garnet Runestar, Chubear Cosplay, Henchmen Props and Cosplay, and Astarohime Koyu are all wonderful craftsmen and seamstresses. It’s hard to list everyone that I personally admire, but these lovely women and gentleman are guaranteed to provide inspiration and motivation!