My Ideal J-Fashion Programming


Last weekend was the last ever Doki Doki convention here in Manchester and even though I’m a bit lukewarm about cons in general, I really will miss this one. Given that it’s the only con outside of Poland I’ve ever gone to, my opinion is far from objective, but to me it was perfect: busy but still small, with a good range of activities to suit every kind of weeb and not just the anime sort, with really nice food that wasn’t that extortionately priced, and a proper friendly vibe. And, very crucially, it’s one of the very few cons in the UK that has consistently put out J-fashion programming.

Like with all conventions, what is on the programme relies heavily on who is involved in organising the event and whether the organisers are on good terms with the local J-fashion community, as well as how active and visible the local J-fashion community is. This is very likely why the big cons in the US manage to include J-fashion in their programmes, which is not something that happens regularly elsewhere. And as I don’t envision replacing my attendance at Doki Doki with anything else, allow me to indulge in a bit of fantasising about what I would love to see at a con as far as the fashion side of things go.

Photo from Doki Doki 2023.

Diversity of Fashion Styles

Far be it for me to complain about lolita fashion taking centre stage in most J-fashion programming at cons. It makes sense since it’s one of the few styles that actually successfully organises its wearers into communities. But J-fashion is so much broader than just that and there are plenty of styles that don’t often get that much visibility at events. One thing that I particularly liked about Doki Doki is that other than the street fashion, it also always included traditional fashion. Some people will only associate Japanese fashion with kimono, while others might have a keen interest in something more kawaii they’ve gleaned from TikTok – what better place to bring them both together than a convention?

J-fashion is a big umbrella that encompasses so much and I want to see all that is under it.
Photo from the Harajuku Fashion Walk Facebook page.

Personable Fashion Show

Seeing upcoming releases is great, though I don’t think that a general convention is the place for that. Equally, just having people strut their outfit to some music goes by much too quickly and a fashion show is the easiest thing that one can do for J-fashion programming. I would love to see something in between. Think those fashion walk streams that the online events like BAK’s or Rose Foret’s do: people showing off their outfits (which, for brand owners, could be something that they will release later) with a short blurb about it. Having someone on stage (or just off it) telling the audience what it is that they’re seeing – what style, but also why the wearer chose to put together an outfit like that and what is its main point – seems far more interesting and gives people more reason to cheer. Because when it’s a fashion show featuring other con-goers the last thing you want is a silent audience, a lot of people are already quite nervous.

Also, when I go to a con, I am more interested in what the other J-fashion people chose to wear at the con and why. With lolita events it's usually clear and I want the same insight when it's people choosing something largely unprompted.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A Panel/Talk that isn’t Just for Newbies

General cons are tricky to do a balanced talk or panel for, especially if the event isn’t (yet) known for its J-fashion programming. Other groups like cosplayers have an easier time pitching something at both a beginner and someone who’s been doing it for a while. J-fashion programming at conventions suffers from the endless stream of “[style] 101”, which alienates those who are more than that. However, doing something too advanced for a beginner risks missing out on hooking in a tentative observer or getting that budding beginner to commit. This of course then has to get updated annually, since having the same talk literally every year will get repetitive too. Nonetheless, I do think that it can be done. To throw a few ideas out there, I think that a demonstration works quite well, whether on a live model or a mannequin, where you could show the layers of an outfit for the fashion style of choice. This is accessible enough for beginners, could even be broadened into multiple outfits (e.g. for lolita doing three coords in each of the main substyles), as well as offers room for some advanced tips and tricks for those who have been at it a while. Or roundtable discussions with wearers of different styles where they can compare their own experiences, which would give newcomers a flavour of multiple fashions and the intermediate and advanced people a more personal outlet. Whatever the talking activity actually is, making it engaging for as broad an audience as possible is key.

I like the variety of talks that Bay Area Kei's online events often had and think that many of them would be friendly to a broader convention.

A Manned Gallery or Exhibition

Based on my experience at Doki Doki, whilst having a booth/stall is nice, unless you are offering some sort of an experience, selling can be tricky. Face painting or raffles work well, but based on last year alone bring and buys have the disadvantage of casual con-goers wanting an option for card payments, which a local community simply won’t have. At the same time, a stationary presence can really help enhance the stage events, fashion show or otherwise. It’s also a bit of a pit stop for other J-fashion enthusiasts and a place for interested bystanders to learn more. As such I think a manned gallery or an exhibition is the perfect middle ground. It would have to be supervised, both to stop any accidents from happening and to be the person who can answer questions should anyone have any. And for anyone who doesn’t want to interact it would be cool just to wander through and look at dress forms with outfits or high resolution photos with some descriptions. This is easily changed year to year, whether by J-fashion style, theme or even to showcase specific creators/designers. And if you combine that with a seating element or some quiet space, then you could really capitalise on those seeking a moment of peace from the hectic atmosphere of the con.

Lolita-chan at the V&A Museum is pretty famous by now. Why not bring her (or someone like that) on tour with some friends as a special attraction at a con?
Photo from the V&A Museum's website.

A Fun Photo Spot or a Photo Booth

Cons always attract photographers, both established and budding. And J-fashionistas love a good photoshoot. As to cosplayers. And as do random people who want to make memories. A neutral background is great, especially for the photographer bulk-editing the photos later, but having something cute and maybe a bit more themed or with some props would get the J-fashionistas really excited. Should the con apply an overall theme to each year’s event, this would make theming the photo spot or booth easier too, but even without that I’m confident that this could be achieved. Also, imagine combining that with a talky event by having a little guide on how to pose for J-fashion outfit photos and livestream the camera’s viewfinder somehow so that the audience could see a ‘before’ and ‘after’ tips version in real time? That might be a tad too overambitious though.

The photo booth doesn't need to be super-extra-elaborate, it just needs to be there, set up and ready. Everyone always has fun at photo booths.
Photo courtesy of Pipparazzi_Cosplay.

Everyone goes to cons for different reasons. My own trip to Doki Doki last weekend has shown me that I am the least weeby amongst my weeby friends, which heavily influences the things that I want to see and engage with. That being said, I like to believe that this gives me a good insight into both what other J-fashion enthusiasts might want and what those unfamiliar with the world might find engaging. Who knows, maybe one day I will get to make these ideas a reality. For now I’m just going to enjoy my loot and dream about what could be.


  1. I swear, if you ever organise a j-fash event I will get my ass to England for it ^__^

  2. Not that it's me organising things, but if you're free mid-June next year... [eyes emoji]

  3. I'll be honest, I do wish there were more cons like Doki Doki with more of a J-Fashion presence... I think Newcastle comm are least trying with SunnyCon, I know they had a sort of gathering there, though that wasn't in the convention itself but rather just outside it... I do feel that about a decade ago there was more of a J-Fashion presence at cons but there hasn't really been for about the last 5 years or so, Doki Doki was one of the few (definitely the only one I can think of in the north of England) that still really did it to such an extent... At least I've still continued to wear J-Fashion to conventions myself...

    1. Yeah, Hyper Japan, despite messing up quite frequently, is still the only con that has a prominent J-fashion presence. I know that the Newcastle comm has been trying with SunnyCon, but since Newcastle is awkward for me to get to, I only know the theory of it. It sounds like there will be more smaller events organised by the team behind Doki Doki, so hopefully we can continue to bring some J-fashion programming there.


Powered by Blogger.