CosWeek: When did you start cosplaying?
Ferasha: In 2010, although it was a horribly improvised closed cosplay that I don’t remember too fondly. My first “proper” cosplay dates from 2011, it was Yuuko Ichihara of “xxxHOLiC” in her red kimono dress that I still often wear at conventions as it’s a surprisingly comfortable costume. Fun fact: I was already over 30 when I started cosplaying.
CosWeek: What lead you to organize cosplay events?
Ferasha: First we started by organizing anime meetups, not exactly cosplay events. We were a local group of enthusiasts for the Japanese pop-culture, and back in the early 2000’s in Serbia, it was kinda lonely to be a Japanese pop-culture enthusiast. So we started with these meetups that primarily served as a way to get to know other anime and manga fans and talk to like-minded people. Slowly, we began to introduce content to our meetups, such as panels, screenings and performances, and in a few years we grew into a small convention. To promote our convention and Japanese pop-culture even further, our Big Boss – the head of our organization – literally ordered a few of us to start cosplaying, to provide example to others and set standards when it comes to costume quality. And given that I was the MC of our main stage and a panelist in way too many programs, it was only natural that the Boss bullied me into making the most elaborate and flashiest costumes. Not that I complained, to be honest – on the contrary, I got hooked on cosplaying rather quickly.
As for our conventions, during the past decade, they grew from small gatherings with only a few hundred people, to large events with 8000 visitors over one weekend (and believe me, 8000 visitors is a loooooooooot for a country like Serbia). In the mean time, we also expanded our area of interest: now we organize two annual conventions on Japanese pop-culture (Japanizam in the summer and ChibiCon in the winter), an event dedicated to the Harry Potter fandom (Pottermania, in the spring), and a megalomaniac Comic Con style event specialized in western fandoms (Beokon, coming up this November – in only two weeks, ouch). Truth be told, these days I’m not organizing these conventions for myself any longer, but for the people who visit them and who look forward to having a safe space where they can be themselves and have fun with their fellow fans. I think that they – and Serbia – deserve such events, and I’m really willing to work hard for them.
CosWeek: What kind of characters do you like to cosplay?
Ferasha: I love cosplaying villains. Three reasons for that: one, I naturally have the unfortunate “resting b*tch face” that makes it quite easy for me to convey the necessary level of arrogance, coldness and evil (not easy living with such a face, I gotta say, because people tend to be scared of you for no reason, but hey, it comes up useful for cosplay). Two: villains, in general, tend to have more style so their costumes look cooler. And three: when they’re written well, when they’re complex and nuanced and their motivation is well presented, villains tend to be – at least in my book – way more interesting (and sometimes even more relatable) than heroes. And given that I find the acting component of cosplay VERY important – the ‘-play’ part – I simply find such villains more of a role-playing challenge.
CosWeek: What sets the Serbian Cosplay culture apart from the rest of the world?
Ferasha: Um, I guess our creativity? We don’t have access to many of the fancy-schmancy cosplay materials that are considered the staple of crafting abroad – good luck trying to find a piece of Worbla in our part of the world. To boot, unfortunately, our general living standard is much lower than in the so-called developed countries, meaning that people have very limited funds they can afford to spend on their hobby. So we make up for that with our creativity in crafting. I think that, over the years, we became specialized in using household objects and cheap, readily available materials for the most complex of cosplay projects. For instance, my Griffith’s armor was made of water pipes, salad bowls, floor padding boards, flower pots and a bucket.
CosWeek: What movies are you looking forward to?
Ferasha: Honestly? None in particular. I’ve never been much of a superhero fan, the YA dystopias are getting old, and even “Star Wars” was never my fandom of choice, so the current cinema trends leave me a tad cold. But I do look forward to a bunch of TV shows, as it seems that all the stuff that I liked migrated to television lately – the upcoming series such as “American Gods” and the adaptations of “Wheel of Time” and “Chronicles of Amber”, as well as the new seasons of “Game of Thrones”, “Vikings”, “Preacher” and “Outlander”. I’m currently enjoying “Westworld”…