Thursday, July 23, 2015

Traveling Lolita : New Orleans: Mechacon : BTSSB / AATP

This will be another volume in my convention travels in search of new lolita encounters, swag, and the ever elusive perfect tea party experience so thanks for tagging along for the ride. Since my brief excursion a few months ago for a wedding, I was happy to return to New Orleans again for Mechacon, a New Orleans anime convention which sported two jfashion brands this year, H. Naoto as well as Baby the Stars Shine Bright / Alice and the Pirates. 

I want to mention that, sadly, a lot of my photos didn't turn out so some very gracious individuals in the community were kind enough to lend their visuals to make this blog post 9000 times better; so thank you Thomas Lin, Renee Martin, and Amy Ngyuen. ( more of Amy's photos can be viewed by clicking her name which will redirect to her photography page. )

The event this year was held July 17th to the 19th. The badge prices were about as much as a regular conventions ranging from $35 to $55 and the tea party was $50. Since this convention was a bit closer than others that I fly out to, I took the Megabus to New Orleans from here in Austin. The trip in its entirety cost me $9. I'm serious. The longer you plot out your trip the cheaper it is. 

There is also free WiFi, tables, outlets, and reserved seating. I highly recommend using this service as a traveling option instead of driving if you can. Granted this was a longer trip than if I would have flown, but I really can't complain with those kind of prices.

Skipping ahead, the convention itself was laid out over three floors of the Hilton hotel with skyways and underground tunnels connecting the hotel to a kind of boardwalk mall. Everything was pretty well organized except for the registration lines and the large gaps that made it kind of easy for people to cut from one line to the other. A big thing that I particularly enjoyed about this convention was that the block of rooms I was lumped with were on higher level floors. They had their own set of elevators which there was never a line for. On almost every occasion when I wanted to use them there was one already waiting at the floor for me. It was magnificent.

The brand booths were located in the dealers room on the first floor of the convention. I was really surprised that H. Naoto was there since they were not promoted at all like Baby was and for some reason were also not on the roster for the dealers room. Their booth was packed to the gills and a lot of the items they had were sold out on the website so it was cool to be able to try on items that you would normally not have the opportunity to. On the artist alley floor, which was the floor above, there were various booths that catered to lolita as well as an information booth run by the local NOLA Lolita Community.

The Baby brand booth was really well stocked with at least 4 racks of dresses as well as one off sample piece bonnets that were used in the Anime North Fashion show earlier this year. This was Baby San Francisco's first year to attend an event here in Louisiana and the girls did not disappoint in buying them all out. There was also a small changing area as well as mirror so you could try on items, very much like how their set up at PMX was like. Nearly two racks of stock were sold on the first day!

As for in the artist alley the people of the Nola community did something that I have never seen before at a convention. They had a fan table where people interested in the fashion could ask questions and find out more information about lolita related events that were going on during the weekend. I found this to be a sensational idea and a great step in positive education for newcomers and a great way to get to know other lolitas in the area or new to this event.

Photo by Thomas Lin
The booth was all volunteer run and there were samples of different lolita styles as well as educational flyers, mooks, GLBs, and other reading material that interested parties could thumb through and ask the lolitas manning the table about. They also handed out cards which told you about the swap meet, lolita 101 and other good tidbits like the time and place of the fashion shows and tea party event.

On the subjct of other jfashion events, there were indeed lolita 101 panel as well as a swap meet. Suffice to say, these were the best parts of the convention for me since this was such a small con. I really like teaching new people about the ever changing fashion and being able to sit in as well as contribute really meant a lot to me cause I like to mentor.. and stuff.

This lone jacket was the only thing I purchased the entire convention besides food. I know, I suck right?

Incidentally, I procured this garment during the swap meet and bless the young soul who sold it to me. I got so excited I think I scared her to death. I was really bummed that the Baby booth didn't stock anything ouji related or cool headwear except for some ill fitting ( on me ) salopettes but thankfully with the swap meet I didn't go home empty handed. The H. Naoto booth had a ton of really great pieces, but after this lone purchase I was riding the winds and really felt like I didn't need to buy anything else.I took part of the community fashion show that the New Orleans community put on Saturday so I haven't any photos of the event. It was a very big labor of love for all of those who were involved. I got a couple of outfit photos while we were doing rehearsal, but I'm sure if you google Phantasmagoria Fashion Show " some links should pop up for you to view it yourself.

Impromptu photo behind the stage during the kill scene!

There was also a brand fashion show put on Baby the Stars Shine Bright as well Alice and the Pirates. I was a little confused as to why H. Naoto didn't also have a fashion segment but maybe they were just using this convention to test the waters with their company and thats why they were so under the radar. I hope next year they might come to the south again, I would have really liked to see them showcased since they're such a popular alternative Japanese brand as well and the two catering to a broader audience.

Sunday was the day of the tea party and it was held in a room overlooking the river as steamboats came by. The theme was Pirates and Princesses and each individual table was decorated in the theme of New Orleans, lolita fashion with elements of Baby and Alice. They didn't have actual physical tickets which would have been a nice piece of memorabilia as the case with prior events I've attended, but the decor did not disappoint. It was by far some of the prettiest table settings for a tea party I have seen so far.

Photo by Amy Ngyuen
Photo by Amy Ngyuen

When entering the room you got a cork for you number for the raffle and instructions on a game they played throughout the course of the tea party. I liked that this encouraged members to mingle with one another as well as get some face time with the guests in a laid back atmosphere. think this is the first time I've seen this executed so well. At the tables there was a flyer hand drawn by one of the community members as a keepsake which was really impressive and a nice touch by the tea party team. There was a raffle, bingo and at last winners of the "like" game. 
Photo by Renee Martin
Postcard Artwork by Reve Lullaby

I've also included a video filmed by one of the local NOLA lolitas Renee Martin; her youtube channel can be found here.

In the end it was a very pleasant endeavor but would suggest maybe some different options in the course of food. There was a enough for everyone to even get seconds, but the sandwiches were not the best and there was chocolate in on or around almost all the desserts and as someone who is allergic to chocolate.. it left something to be desired. If anything this has to do with the hotel catering. As with other tea parties, a lot lack that certain je ne sais quoi needed for perfect food to compliment the event. I think by far my favorite has been PMX's tea party who actually outsources with local lolita favorites for their events.

The hotel itself as well as the staff was really quite nice, and to be honest I was taken aback. I was prepared to be dealt with rather badly; given my negative experiences with multiple Hiltons in both Texas and California for other lolita events, but was instead greeted and treated really well and would even be willing to congratulate them as this was the first Hilton I don't hate.

I think overall, I would attend this event again. If not for the fact I live kind of close and it is quite a good alternative event to attend instead supporting Anime Matsuri, it has obtained the beginnings of popularity and success I think can evolve into something better and more worthwhile for congoers an jfashionistas alike. They have a hard working fairly organized staff and seem to show that their work is a labor of love and not just profit. And while some things ran a little long or late, for their first year showcasing brands I think they did pretty well and are worth seeing if they can do a bit better next year.

I didn't get to snag as many good outfit shots as I had liked, but thankfully I got good ones of my favorite. I really hope next year they have the tea party in the same area as the lighting there and the dealer room were the best the whole con ( who woulda thunk? )

I was very lucky to get to hang out with some fellow friends after the convention before my journey on the way home. And I've got to say, this city does it's very best each time to tug so hard on my heart strings and make me not want to leave. 

We ate at a place called SLICE, which hands down has the most intriguing flavor combinations of pizza.There was an Arugula, Gorgonzola, pear and honey pizza! Me naturally got the shrimp po'boy ( I loooove po'boys now that I've tried authentic ones.. oh my god ) and did a family style of trying all the food on the menu. It was sooo terrific and the best possible way to end and a fantastic weekend; with good friends and good food. 

Thanks for taking the time to read about my experiences this year and hold fast because next week I'll be covering San Japan in San Antonio, Texas with Enchantilic Enchantilly and Harajuku Hearts. Stay tuned!

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