Cosplay – the art of dressing up

Izah Azahari

Cosplay has gained much popularity in the Sultanate during the early 2000s, with the first ever DevMeet in 2009.

Since then it has evolved and become a favourite part of any exhibition held in the country, especially for young children. Speaking to the Bulletin are four avid cosplayers in Brunei, who had the experience in making their own armour or costumes.

Mohammad Fakhri bin Nooradin is a 26-year-old cosplayer who is currently working in the Oil and Gas Industry as an Electrical Technician.

He got into cosplay in 2010 through his childhood interest in pop-culture.

Fakhri said that he was like any other child who love to dress up as his or her favourite characters and re-enact their roles.

A Brunei cosplayer as an anime character. PHOTO: FAKHRI/ NIO/ PRETTY GEEKY
Local cosplayer during a photoshoot
Local cosplayers dress up as ‘Power Ranger’ characters

“I guess you can say that some people have grown out of their childhood heroes and fantasies.Some people embraced them by bringing these characters to life, escaping reality for a short moment of time, thus becoming a cosplayer,” said Fakhri. Cosplaying his favourite characters like Ironman, Deadpool, Black Panther, Spider-man Noir from from Marvel Comics, Stormtrooper, the Mandalorian from Star Wars, and Red Ranger from the Power Rangers to name a few, Fakhri started crafting his own armours or costumes because he really admires how amazing these props and costumes were made in the entertainment industry.

“Cosplay and crafting began as a hobby, but slowly grew into a passion.

“I’ve also come to appreciate the effort all these great artistes and creators in the entertainment industry had done to create such movie magic. That’s inspired me to pursue this passion,” said Fakhri.

Much like Fakhri, Pretty Geeky Cosplay is another individual who was heavily influenced by pop culture from collecting comic books. She collects a lot of clothing and accessories that are related to movies and comic book characters, such as Disney Princess dresses, jackets with motifs from Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman, as well as workout cloths that look like armour and designer handbags related to movie and comic books.

“So just like a lot of people collecting action figures, I collect what I call ‘wearables’. The difference is instead of my collection getting displayed only, I can put together a themed outfits with my clothing and accessories, and have fun while I go out,” said Pretty Geeky. “In 2017, I met other cosplayers, Mars Leon and Muna, and through their friendship and encouragement, I decided to start cosplaying. My first cosplay, back in December 2017, was Wonder Woman, which I wore for the opening of a cafe and toy bazaar at the Airport Mall.”

With an affinity to really strong female hero characters, she also believes that she relates to them through her own strong personality, adding that having a slightly bigger and taller build than most made sense for her to take on these characters. However, that has not stopped her from embodying Disney Princesses that she loves and grew up with.

“Cosplay for me is a form of therapy. In 2017, I went to get psychiatric help at Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital for my depression,” said Pretty Geeky. It was when she started talking to her therapist about her hobbies and finding healthy ways to express herself that the therapist advised her to take-up cosplay as a form of therapy.

“Dressing up as a character made me step out of myself for short periods of time, to embody these strong characters. You feel pretty powerful when you’re carrying a sword and shield, or when you’re wearing a helmet,” she said. “It was not so much as hiding or avoiding my depression, but when you put on the confident air of a warrior or a superhero, you can’t help but feel a little better.”

She said one of her favourite experiences was when two little girls ran after her while she was walking through Times Square Shopping Mall as a Pink Power Ranger. The girls asked for pictures and even have a lady who asked her to hold her baby in pictures because the Pink Power Ranger was her favourite hero as a child.

“There’s an aspect of cosplaying when people are able to share in the moment, and feel the joy and love you have for the character and appreciate what you do, that really makes me happy.”

Twenty-six-year-old Ana Rozana binti Hamdani who goes by the name Nio Tan said that she discovered cosplaying through Kreko and Gempak magazines that featured short articles on an Anime Comics Game (ACG) event in Malaysia. Having liked anime and comics books since she was little, Nio was happy to see those characters come to life, and later on found out that it was actually a hobby for people to dress up as their favourite characters.

When DevMeet was held in 2009 in Brunei, Nio, who was still in secondary school, decided to debut her first cosplay. She said her cosplay characters are mostly from anime, manga and games.

She would dress up as characters from the series that she loves, game characters from her childhood, and even villains, as well as characters with intricate costume designs. “I started cosplaying when I was still a student and I couldn’t afford to buy a whole set of costume, and I could barely afford a wig for the character. So I decided to make the costume myself,” said Nio. “I started off with modifying bits and pieces of clothes that I owned to make them somewhat resemble the costumes. I only knew basic hand sewing at that time. It was until I decided to attend a proper sewing class that I got myself a sewing machine.”

Thanks to that passion Nio discovered her love for sewing and making costumes.

Although making armours are more of a challenge as there are limited materials she can find in Brunei, it has fuelled her passion further to achieve her dream of representing Brunei in the World Cosplay Summit one day.

A more recent newcomer to the cosplaying scene is 28-year-old Mawardi Masyhuri bin Haji Muhammad Firdaus.

He began cosplaying in 2012 through his interest in Japanese animation and his enthusiasm towards bringing such characters to life for others to enjoy and take photos with.

“When you’re passionate about something, you try your best to improve and enhance your skills in the field of crafting your own costumes instead of purchasing them online,” said Mawardi.

“I began making my own costumes because I wanted to try something new and to prove that Bruneians can do things and are skilled in crafting.”

Portraying characters such as Sasuke from Naruto, Hitsugaya from Bleach, Noctis from Final Fantasy, and Gundam to name a few, Mawardi said that he cosplays these characters because of the interesting personalities they portrayed and what drives him further towards cosplaying is his belief that he’s doing something useful. Despite having a busy work schedule, he still finds the time to make his own costumes because of his desire to dress as a superhero in Brunei.

With all the experiences that these cosplayers have gained throughout their years, they all agree that anyone who wants to start cosplay should just go for it. They believe that everyone deserves to feel like the characters or heroes they want to be, whether for a particular event or just for the sake of fun.

“If you’re going to start crafting, you may have to invest in tools, materials and paints, or you could always reuse any old materials and scraps lying around your home,” said Fakhri. “The best thing is to start making something you truly desire to have or to be, really do your research online, find your inspiration, as there are many great references and tutorials, especially on YouTube.”

Fakhri believes that the key is to have motivation, inspiration, discipline, patience and time, a target and goal to finish your prop, on top of never giving up and to keep practising, as at the end of the day, you would have accomplished and achieved something which will be rewarding.

“For people who wish to start cosplay, do it. Do it for yourself. Find characters you love and that inspire you. Even if you are too shy to cosplay outdoors, and if it’s just taking pictures in your bedroom and sharing it online, just do what makes you happy,” added Pretty Geeky. “It doesn’t have to be super accurate, you don’t have to have like muscular build, but if you can relate and bring that character to life in your creativity, don’t hold back.”

Nio believes that people shouldn’t mind what other people say as cosplaying is an unusual hobby that not everyone will understand. “If you like it, just do it! And it’s okay if your first cosplay is not the best, you can and will improve along the way as long as you keep on trying. As for those aspiring makers and crafters, Google and Youtube is your best friend! There’s lot of tips and tutorials that are being shared online nowadays!” added Nio.