We’ve been able to feature some amazing cosplayers here, and I’m so excited to feature Joshua from J. Hart Designs. You guys, this guy has some crazy costumes and they are all incredibly intricate and beautiful. Even more impressive, these costumes are all created from scratch—all the way down to placing rhinestones on the costume. That overwhelms me just typing it, but I’m so excited to introduce you all to Joshua of J. Hart Designs!
How did you get into the world of cosplay and costume design?
I fell in love with sewing through my attendance of renaissance festivals. The proximity to the gorgeous costumes enchanted me to seek out the information to create these works of art. I painstakingly taught myself how to construct period garb by hand, using only a needle and thread. Each pathetically crooked seam pushed me harder to turn my failed attempts into a successful, perfect garment. When I learned of a local anime and video game convention in my hometown, I pounced on the chance to create more costumes based on my favorite video game characters. My first cosplay was Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy VII. I attended the convention with my friends, dressed as characters from the same series, and I fell in love with the transformative nature of cosplay.
Your costumes are so incredible, and they look terribly detailed. How long does each piece take you to create?
Depending on the complexity of the garment, I can finish most costumes from start to finish in two weeks to two months while working a full time job. Typically, ball gowns take the most time due to the plethora of layers and embellishments. My most current costume—the ballgown from Disney’s Cinderella—has required over 250 hours to turn 315 yards of gossamer fabrics into a water-colored confection. In contrast, Sakizo’s Gentleman Opal required 54 hours of work to create the doublet, pants, and accessories.
What is the most obnoxious/tedious part of creating a costume, and what is your favorite?
My favorite part of any project is sourcing the materials and trimming because I am able to mentally construct the visual aesthetic of the final garment. By comparing a wide variety of fabrics, their qualities, and the colors available, I am able to appropriately choose the best combination of items to create the desired results. My wallet, on the other hand, hates this part! The most tedious part of any costume is the embellishments by hand—particularly rhinestones. In order to make an impact, thousands of crystals need to be applied individually, one by one. While extremely time consuming, the glittering end results are completely worth every hour. Many of my costumes have at least 10,000 rhinestones, and several have as many as 50,000.
Where do you get most of your inspiration? Are you more inspired by stuff you read, games you play, things you watch, or just life around you?
I gain most of my inspiration from historical fashion plates. One of my favorite design aspects is silhouette and proportion, as it is the most evocative way to create interest and drama. The drawn illustrations of perfectly quaffed women wearing frills and trimmings in voluminous proportions have always caught my attention. So, whenever I create a new costume I always do my best to ground it in period fashions to create a conglomeration of fantasy and history.
What are some of the things you’ve learned about yourself since you started cosplaying and designing costumes?
I have taught myself many sewing and life skills because I began cosplaying, [but] I am most thankful that I have mastered patience. My love for large, elaborate gowns comes with a price: time-consuming redundant tasks. It took many years to develop the patience and mental fortitude to apply 40,000 rhinestones, creating garments entirely with hand stitches, and sew oceans of ruffles.
If you could give one piece of advice to brand new cosplayers, what would it be?
Welcome to our creative and wonderful collection of talented and willful individuals! Cosplay is an ultimate amalgamation of creativity, self-expression, passion, and performance art. It is a visual and mental approach to portray and showcase your love for a series or character, and revel in the process of artistic creation; enjoy yourself.
You often cosplay in both masculine and feminine outfits. Have you found the cosplay/convention community accepting and welcoming, or has it been a tough road?
The cosplay and convention communities, as a whole, are very accepting and welcoming. While there are some jeers, rude comments, and blatant scoffs, I attempt to remain unaffected by their negativity. I create and wear my creations with pride to fulfill my own creative enjoyment. I cosplay for myself, not for the political opinion of others.
What advice do you have for those cosplayers and designers looking to break out of “the norm,” push boundaries, or simply create art outside of cultural expectations?
It takes a very strong individual who has the fortitude to create and think outside of the typical cultural box. It is only worthwhile to create art to fulfill a creative void within yourself. And, one should only push boundaries if you are still willing to create a piece with the knowledge that others can/will state hurtful, insensitive comments about you and/or your creation. If other’s words have the ability to destroy your sense of worth, then it is not advisable to deviate from the cultural norm. Never create to cause conflict or to change the perception of others because you will only cause heartbreak and disappointment within yourself.
Where can we find you online?
Thanks so much to Joshua for taking the time to chat with us! Got any other cosplayers you’d love to see us interview? Let me know in the comments!
All images property of J. Hart Design. Image credits: Le Noir/Sorairo-Days Photography, Gentleman Opal/Ivan Montoya Photography, Ciel Phantomhive Black Butler/Ivan Montoya Photography, Kuranosuke/Sorairo-Days Photography