Years of Cosplay: 6 / Moscow, Russia /

Interview by Cristian Botea & Ruxandra Târcă

One of the most talented cosplayers, not only in Russia, but worldwide as well, Astarohime tells us what it means to work with – literally – hundreds of meters of fabric and thousands of beads for only one dress. Being able to perfectly impersonate both beautiful princesses with large and lavishly decorated dresses, and male characters with simple costumes, Astarohime is a living example of the versatility of cosplay.

How did the cosplay adventure begin for you? What made you embrace this hobby and what was your first experience related to cosplay?
My friends invited me to try my hand at cosplaying a J-Rock musician from the band Dir-en-Grey. I was engaged in theater work since my childhood, and the aesthetics of the Asian V-Kei is very close to me. I listen to a lot of J-Rock music, read manga and watch anime. I really wanted to impersonate my favorite character, so my first cosplay was the costume of CC from the Code Geass.

It seems that you have a special preference for very exquisite and elaborated gowns. Does the complexity of the costume itself make you want to choose that type of cosplay or is it about the character as well?
I always choose to cosplay my most beloved characters, which really are close to me in spirit, character or history. For some reason, most of them have quite elaborated costumes, but I also have simple cosplays. For example, it wasn’t hard to cosplay as Rokuro Unno from Brave 10.

Tailoring-wise, until now what was the most difficult costume you have ever created? Could you describe the making-of process?
Oh, it was a gown of Esther Blanchett (Trinity Bood) — the coronation dress. I’ve worked with over 50 meters of fabric with a special surround pattern like the original has. It wasn’t easy, sometimes I even cried from high pressure and nerves.

First I drew a lot of sketches of parts, elements of the suit and a full-length version, and elaborated the aspects of the costume, which weren’t visible in the picture. After that I’ve made a pattern, and it took me two months to do this part of my work.

I also sewed a crinoline and several petticoats for this costume, bought a lot of different gems, jewelry, over 800 meters of lace and 20000 pearls.

When the fabric was ready, I started to create the parts of the costume in detail and sew them. One of the most complicated problems was the collars. I made 5 different collars and it was difficult to make them the same size as in the image and to arrange them properly. As a result, my costume weighs over 30 kg and I can’t wear it by myself. But I’m happy with the effect.

Can you recount a situation when you needed to improvise or find a quick on-spot solution in order to overcome a difficult situation you encountered while creating a costume? What was the trick to surmount it?
Of course there were situations like this, for example when I’ve made a mistake in the costume of Suu (Clover), because the feathers for the wings were too heavy. I had to remove a few of them; otherwise I just couldn’t move them upwards. The trick is to not give up and not be upset, and then you will easily find a solution to any problem.

You also impersonated a few male-characters as well. Did you find it easier or more difficult? Will you cosplay some more male-characters in the future?
It’s quite difficult for me, because I’m petite and I’ve got narrow shoulders, so I don’t look very manly. But of course I will! There are many male characters among my favorites and I’ll just try to choose the shortest guy in the company for cosplaying. Or make photoshoots of me as a male character, because that way it’s easier to compensate the height or build and I can also be focused on other aspects of a hero, like magical abilities or super-powers.

Make-up can sometimes be that second layer of skin which completely puts you in the character’s shoes. What are your most used make-up tricks and also what character do you think was the trickiest in terms of make-up?
My favorite technique is to change the shape of the eyes: usually I strongly round my eyes to make them bigger, because it helps seem less human and more similar to an anime character. However, for Rokuro Unno makeup style I pulled the shape and tried to reconstruct the shape of the character’s eyes. The longest and most complicated makeup I’ve done was when I cosplayed as Jasmine You (Versailles PQ). I had to apply a lot of different shades of gold cosmetics, and finally it took me two hours to glue all the glitter on my face.

Your photos are always benefiting from spectacular and very properly chosen settings. Can you tell us a few words about how easy or difficult it is to find the perfect location and also to gain access to it?
It’s very difficult to find appropriate locations in Russia. There are only a few places where it is allowed to take photoshoots, despite the fact that I live in one of the biggest cities in the country. So I had to look for locations out of town and I sometimes went very far to get to them. For example, my crew and I reached the photoshoot location for Adekan in over five hours! But you should never lose hope, because it’s always possible to find something suitable if you put some efforts into that.

The relationship between the cosplayer and photographer is one of the key-elements to determine the success of a photoshoot and of the photo itself. Can you describe a bit how a usual photoshoot works for you?
The communication and understanding between the cosplayer and the photographer is very important to me. We usually plan a photoshoot for a month or two, carefully selecting the location, studying each shot, looking for the things we need for our photoset and inviting assistants.

Sometimes not everything goes smoothly, of course. During one of the photoshoots I was in water, and my costume became so heavy that I almost drowned.

Usually we try to tell the whole story through the photographs that come up with the photographer, that’s why I’m telling the photographer everything I know about the character and its world. I think it’s very important when a cosplayer and a photographer are both carried away by the process, and it is the only way to get outstanding shots.

Among your chosen characters to cosplay there are also J-Rock artists, and this seems to be a veritable trend in Russia. What does the J-Rock culture mean to you, and how did it come to influence the Russian cosplay environment so much?
I have to say that thanks to my passion for J-Rock and its deep effect on me I came into cosplay. It is a really important and interesting genre, and sometimes the musicians themselves get on stage as popular cosplay characters, such as Ciel Phantomhive. The Japanese music is very close to my heart, it is focused on problems that are very important to the society, but often aren’t discussed. It’s great! I get inspiration from the music and the videos of my favorite artists, and sometimes their music helps me imagine incredible pictures, which I try to depict later in my photoshoots. We usually attach the audio tracks which inspired us to the photos upon their publication.

While cosplay competitions can be places where you can both show off your skill in costume making and theatrics, they can also be a place where you can gain friends and knowledge from others. With all that said, there’s always room for drama and conflict in between. How do you feel about such competitions and have you ever participated and/or won? How did you experience it?
Of course, I participated in many competitions, and not only in Russia. I like cosplay events very much, because you meet many people, feel yourself free in the role of a character, show your costume to everybody, and show the personality of your chosen character.

I’m an awardee of a lot of festivals and cosplay-related events in many cities. Do you mind if I don’t enumerate all my achievements? I don’t mean to be a hypocrite or anything like that. It’s very pleasing to know that my work is highly regarded and that it gives new purposes, new stimulus and new success.

Cosplay is gaining more and more attention as the years pass and you can even see it, quite often nowadays, in the spotlight of commercial media. How is cosplay viewed in your country and how do you feel it has evolved, both on a local and global scale?
Cosplay in Russia was not regarded positively, because our country is very conservative. However, nowadays I see that the situation is becoming better and better. Thanks to the fact that the Russian Federation was included among the participants of WCS, cosplay became more open for people, and many of them saw that it’s not a bad thing like they thought before. And it’s great! Hopefully, Russian cosplayers will be appreciated in society. Regarding the global perspective, I often hear that people from other countries tell that Russian cosplay is quite brilliant, and such positive reports make me feel as happy as in Christmas time! And I want to say to them: thank you for all your nice and kind words! It’s a pleasure and we appreciate them very much.

By now we’ve heard multiple stories where people have gained, through the hobby of cosplaying, knowledge, friends, tremendous amounts of fun and the list goes on and on. What have you gained through this hobby and how important is it now for you?
Exactly! I have also met a lot of very talented and excellent friends! Cosplay is the concentration of my creative work. It helps me become accomplished in design, art, theater, and even in dance! Until I started my cosplay activity, I didn’t know how to express myself, my emotions, thoughts and my view on the world. Now I have an opportunity to do it. I can show the beauty that I see around me, or sadness, or a bit of magic… And the most important thing is that cosplay allows you to be a dreamer and to believe in miracles. This is very valuable in our rapidly developing world. I wish you all to find a fairytale inside!


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