Comic-Con. Dragon Con. Cosplay.
Three types of conventions that some people in our industry are a little timid of, but also types of conventions that we suggest you take interest in because it will bring you a lot of potential in your market. Trust us – we came, we saw and we conquered.
But where did we go?
Over Labor Day weekend we attended Dragon Con in Atlanta, Georgia, where we didn’t know what to fully expect but walked out of there with so many ideas for future Famore innovation.
What is Dragon Con?
Over 30 years ago, Dragon Con was created to focus on its own genre – the table-top gaming industry. Ever heard of the game Dungeons and Dragons? That’s an example of the “gaming” we’re talking about. When it started in 1987, it was a tiny, niche convention that took over one hotel. After a couple years, the creators realized that most fans held multiple interests in different genres.
“They were all science fiction fans, but some of them also enjoyed gaming while others liked comic books,” Dragon Con creators said. “They could go to any convention and have a good time, but only for so long before boredom set in.”
With those thoughts, the creators decided to expand their convention to combine fandoms. Needless to say, it took off without a hitch.
The show is only held once a year and it’s always in Atlanta, which is actually one of the “geekiest” cities in America. Today, the convention takes over 5 hotels and hosts close to 90,000 fans – one of the largest pop culture conventions in the world.
What was it like as a vendor?
We initially took interest in this industry when we hosted 3 speakers at VDTA almost 3 years ago. When RNK Distributing sat on the panel we hosted during that show, we were introduced to Sew Much Cosplay. After continuous conversations and an instant connection, we decided to invite them to split the booth with us at Dragon Con. To date it was their most successful con for the brand they have had.
These type of conventions are not ones industry-players run to, but we’re here to tell you that you should definitely run – sprint even. You don’t have to start out with Dragon Con, but we suggest you end up here. That said, Dragon Con is a hard show to get into as a vendor, but it’s definitely worth the work and wait.
All of the vendors were in AmericasMart, which is one of the largest permanent wholesale trade centers in the world. Consisting of four buildings totaling seven million square feet, vendors of Dragon Con filled every floor of Building Two.
Booths were set up and ready to roll each day from 10 a.m.-7 p.m., preparing for the excitement. We didn’t realize it was going to be so busy, but the organization actually had to stop letting fans in at 3 p.m. a couple days because the building was at capacity. Needless to say, we definitely had a lot of foot traffic at the booth.
From true, die-hard fans, to movie-industry professionals, the attendees varied in gender and age – it was one of the most diverse conventions we’ve ever seen. We were able to see so many different versions of craft when fans would walk around in their one-of-a-kind designed cosplay costumes – some with plastics and some with cotton fabrics.
With all of the creativity surrounding us, we actually came home with new, expanded product line ideas that we plan to implement in the coming months. In addition, we had multiple discussions for private-label opportunities.
How does our industry support this phenomenon? Let’s use Cosplay as an example.
It's becoming more of the norm for cosplayers to create their own costumes using countless amounts of craft supplies and sewing techniques, including PVC pipes, plastics, chemicals and delicate fabrics. Cosplayers refer specific sewing machines, craft materials and their own "how-to" instructions for others to use.
But what about fabrics? With the continuous rows of cotton, fleece, gingham and floral, the average fabric store doesn't have cosplayers in mind with design, but that didn't stop designer Yaya Han who had a love-hate relationship with cosplay and fabric shopping. The designer would hoard fabrics and keep swatches of everything she had ever used in hopes to be able to find it again.
"Sixteen-plus years of hunting all over the world/internet for fabrics, often holding up cosplay plans until the right fabric was found, then, after making the costumes, praying that they won't disintegrate due to 'source unknown' materials (Totally happened. Repeatedly.), last minute changes to costumes because the fabric did not work the way I had wanted," Han said in her blog.
That said, Han was recently able to get rid of her fabric-woes when she crafted a new line with Cosplay Fabrics (formerly known as Wyla Fabrics) which consists of more than 75 bolts of fabric. Little did she know at the time, but Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores displayed interested and would be showcasing her line.
No matter what, we’re here to strongly suggest you take an interest in this phenomenon. We can’t express how much potential there is within. We’re taking everything we learned and putting it to work in our company in order to align our products with these fans – something that we hope will reap in benefits.