This weekend, The Ticketpro Dome in north Johannesburg plays host to rAge, South Africa’s biggest videogames expo.
Alongside unreleased games (like Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, Just Cause 3 and Call Of Duty: Black Ops III), swag for purchase and the expo’s signature LAN event, there’ll be quite a few cosplayers in attendance. This happens every year at rAge – as well as other geek gatherings such as Icon and Geekfest – as the gaming expo creates a safe space for all attendees to fly their freak flag high. Expect to see at least one Lara Croft before the weekend’s out.
If you’ve never tried it out before, cosplay can be a little intimidating. Simply assembling an outfit takes an awful lot of work and talent – well, if you want to stand a decent chance of actually resembling your favourite sci-fi/anime/videogame/fill-in-the-blank character rather than a candidate for this Tumblr account.
This is made all the more difficult if you’re clueless when it comes to the art of crafting a costume from scratch – as we are, which is why we have nothing but admiration for anyone who can pull off cosplay. If you want to give it go, however, Johannesburg-based fashion and graphic design company, SIN BIN has you covered.
Started in 2009 by designer Cynthia Brown, SIN BIN is essentially a go-to shop for anyone interested in cosplay, who is, shall we say, unconfident in their crafting abilities. Brown’s gorgeous works aren’t limited to Anime or gaming icons, however; SIN BIN produces anime, cartoon and steampunk-themed items – outfits, jewellery, goggles, utility belts, hats – T-shirts, giant plushies and more. Brown says that she even provides designs and costumes for AfrikaBurn, the costumes for a couple of Medieval Live Action Role Playing (LARP) communities and outfits for couples throwing steampunk weddings.
Oh, and Brown also makes animal ears, which is where SIN BIN started all those moons ago.
“I worked as an illustrator at a firm that designs games that teach employees how to be better at their jobs,” Brown says. “The company had a casual ‘dress-up’ day every last Friday of the month. I made a pair of cat ears and wore them to work. I got a lot of compliments and because I worked near a mall, people would ask me where I’d bought them when I walked around on my lunch break.”
“Commissions started flowing in and then late one night I found myself between deadlines for work and commissions for cat ears and I thought, ‘well, which one of these two jobs do I prefer?’.”
After an initial, rather terrifying start-up period Brown saw the necessity in branching out into creating items beyond animal ears – “you never know, the market could become flooded” – such as costumes for the LARP community, plushies shaped like giant grinning octopi and, eventually, steampunk gear – “a friend introduced me to the scene and I fell in love with it instantly”.
Wandering through SIN BIN’s headquarters is a bit like stepping into an Aladdin’s Cave – except the gold here has been replaced by steampunk goggles, skeleton pocket watches and hairclips attached to 3-D printed bird skulls (“those have been really popular since the last Mad Max came out,” Brown grins).
Aside from the finished creations and some items that Brown says she doesn’t make – she imports them – SIN BIN’s workspace is awash with raw materials – fabrics, baubles, buttons and all manner of crafting kit, which as Brown tells it, isn’t always easy to source.
“A lot of the time, the materials are cheaper to import from overseas than to buy locally,” she says. “I’m not sure why that is. I think it might be the case that the demand exists for a lot of the stuff I need here, so sellers are unwilling to cut down the price.”
“Half the stuff I use to make the steampunk goggles used to be imported, but now it’s just a case of going to the local hardware store,” she says. “They do insist, however, that I give them a week’s advance warning so I don’t wipe out their stock all in one go.”
After six odd years, Brown’s business is thriving to the point that Cynthia’s battling to keep up with demand – so much so that many of the items she’s created for her online store hardly ever get listed, as customers with appointments buy them along with whatever they asked Brown to make for them in the first place.
This week, Brown is working at breakneck pace since she’s going to be taking her wares down to rAge – and she’s already completed several Cosplay outfits ahead of that event. The big must-have item requested by rAge attendees this year is a hood-scarf-combo based on Gir – the brainless sidekick of the titular alien in the dark cult cartoon, Invader Zim.
“Last year we didn’t bring any and we got into trouble with some of our customers,” she smiles. “I thought it would be too hot to wear them, but there you go!”
She’ll also be bringing hoodies, jewelry, goggles and whole host of new items – well, ‘new’, in that they haven’t been shown on her website yet.
So while first-time cosplayers may have to wait a year for Cynthia Brown’s help to look their best at rAge, SIN BIN’s stall promises to offer some magical and unique swag. Yes, there will even be Gir hoodies… provided you get there early.
- SIN BIN stall can be found at rAge in the Artist Alley (Stall 46), which is near Entrance 3.
[Images Used With Kind Permission of SIN BIN]