This past weekend, I finally had the chance to attend a convention I’ve been wanting to ever since the launch of it – Steampunk World’s Fair. If you’ve been a follower of Panache Offblast from the beginning, you’ll know I’ve been fond of and a part of the subculture for quite some time now. I even launched this blog with my first post discussing the Steampunk subculture and the fashions that come along with it (check it out here if you haven’t!).
Over the years, Steampunk has generated such a huge buzz that it was stamped the top trend to hit 2013. Even if designers and shops haven’t coined their most recent collections as Steampunk, you can definitely see the inspiration taken from the genre. I’ve seen the style inspire dozens of looks on the runways as well as large-name retailers like Target and Hot Topic. You know something has become a massive trend once it’s designed into a Halloween costume – ha! On to the convention though…
I’ve been to several conventions (anime & comic), but I’ve never seen such a massive crowd put so much detail, time and creativity into their ensembles like I did at Steampunk World’s Fair. Everywhere I turned, I was amazed at the fact that everyone – both old and young – was dressed in such eye-catching attire. The best part is that nobody has the same outfit on (minus goggles, tights, feathers, etc.), whereas at anime conventions you see dozens of cosplayers dressed as the exact same character. It’s pretty great when you see a thirteen-year-old girl holding a machine gun almost as tall as her and an elderly man decking out his wheelchair in Victorian-esque accessories and decor (below). Why not, right?
Founded by Jeff Mach, Steampunk World’s Fair began in 2010 and has already reached over 4,000 attendees, making it the world’s largest Steampunk event. The event attracted so many people this year that four overflow hotels had to be booked. The schedule at the fair was packed with musical acts, art auctions, extravagant balls, fashion shows, costume contests (hosted by my friend H. Brevard Brown III – link to his shop below!), informative panels, and workshops. Musical acts including This Way to the Egress, Eli August and The Abandoned Buildings, Steam Powered Giraffe, Voltaire, and Frenchy and the Punk, were just a few of the thirty artists that performed this year. The fair also featured workshops and panels that delve further into elements of the Steampunk universe including “Mummy Unwrapping”, “Creating Believable Steampunk Worlds”, and Edison vs Tesla: Is That a Death Ray In Your Pocket?” Vendors from all over the country displayed their creations including retro-futuristic leather garbs, neo-Victorian jewelry, herbal teas and infused oils, and much more.
I also want to point out that this is the friendliest convention I’ve ever attended. Let me explain why:
- Family Atmosphere – Everyone seems like a big family – especially when you include fantastic musical acts (music brings people together, I think!) and everyone is very social and warm.
- Vendors / Workshops / Panels – I’m always blown away by the artistic abilities and creativity of the vendors’ displays. Those who run the workshops / panels / booths are incredibly friendly, welcoming, and simply want to make you feel included as best as they can. I had many great chats and made a ton of new friends this way.
- Attendees – Again, everyone is willing and wanting to share with you, take care of you, make sure you’re having a great time, ask you about your outfit, and just overall friendly. The shiest of people will break out of their shells with the attendees of SPWF.
- General Atmosphere – Everyone is out to have a good time and try something new without judging others, putting anyone down, or trying to be the center of attention. I feel like this type of community doesn’t judge and is very open to newcomers. You don’t have to be a Steampunk enthusiast to attend. Unlike cosplaying at anime/comic conventions where you have the elitists trying too hard to make their way to the top, the Steampunk community (and ones like it) is looking for it to grow strong without any individual competition, hatred, or judgement towards others. The best kind of environment there is!
Summarizing the true fascination of Steampunk and its rapidly expanding influence on today’s culture, we can say that the subculture allows us to create a universe of endless – mechanical, fantastical, magical… you name it – possibilities against an otherwise ordinary society. Of course you’re able to read up more on the Steampunk lifestyle and ooh and ahh over the creations you see; but truly, attending the fair puts it all on an entirely different scale, allowing you to submerge yourself right into the mindset of these incredibly creative artists and brilliance behind the subculture. I’m already eagerly planning for next year and can’t wait to see what else is in store for us all!