The fashion at BroadwayCon uniquely connects fans to their favorite shows
By Lisa Granshaw
It’s not every convention where singing fills the vendor hall or a sing-a-long ends a panel, but at the fourth annual BroadwayCon in New York City this January I discovered it’s not so rare an occurrence there. While a big fan of Broadway and theater in general, I’d never been to the convention before. It was a joy being surrounded by so many fans of an area that doesn’t receive as much attention at other conventions I attend. I was excited to find a welcoming community with fans expressing their love for their favorite Broadway shows in creative ways, including through geek fashion. While some fun, expected geek fashion offerings were at the convention, I was even more delighted to find a number of surprisingly imaginative items with direct connections to Broadway in the convention’s marketplace.
One such booth that caught my eye right away was Intermission Beauty. Intermission Beauty offers fans a way to feel connected to their favorite shows through stunning lipsticks. Their Broadway Diva Series in particular is impressive, offering shades by Broadway stars inspired by one of their songs. The company was started by former performer turned celebrity makeup artist Douglas Otero who works directly with divas to create each color in the line, though it didn’t start that way.
“The first diva was Orfeh, who was in Legally Blonde, so I wanted to do a Bend and Snap. It just screamed out hot pink so I kind of went with my own gut. It wasn’t until I started doing Stephanie J. Block’s color for her fabulous Tony nominated performance in Falsettos,” Otero told GeekFold. “I kind of knew what she liked and knew what looked good on her as a professional makeup artist so I came up with three samples and I gave them to her. She made the final decision on what she liked and that one became Breaking Down.”
Now Otero said the divas are very much involved in the process of deciding their products. For example, Otero explained that Keala Settle from The Greatest Showman wanted two colors which is how they arrived at “This is Me” and “This is Me II” while Shoshana Bean from the original Hairspray cast wanted a liquid lipstick that dries matte for her product “Remember the Day,” inspired by a song off her album Spectrum. According to Otero, she loves a good matte lipstick and so she became the only one right now to have a liquid matte lipstick.
If the creativity of the line wasn’t enough of a draw, the Broadway Diva Series supports a good cause too. Ortero has a huge passion for animals so proceeds from the collection go to support The Humane Society and the ASPCA. All of their products are cruelty-free and their non-Diva items are worth a look as well. He decides on the colors for these products based on what inspires him personally about a show. For example, Otero told GeekFold that for Matilda he thought of the innocence of a young girl and so went with a nice nude that has become their most popular nude so far.
This was Otero’s second year at the convention and looking around at the Broadway fashion at the con, he recognizes that his company stands out. He thinks the fashion available is great, but that he stumbled onto something he didn’t know wasn’t out there.
“From walking around and looking, I feel like I own the beauty spot of it. I guess that’s why many are like ‘are you going to come up with more colors or face makeup or make it bigger than what it is?’ Even though it’s pretty big with just lip products,” he said.
In addition to its lipsticks, Intermission Beauty is expanding into lip glosses and does offer some facial mists. Otero said he’d like to expand into more products at some point, but nothing is set in stone at the moment.
Otero was not the only one whose work has such a direct connection to Broadway. Jen Kahn, founder of Scenery Bags, was a stage manager for about 20 years. During this time it broke her heart watching the shows be thrown away when they closed. She knew the labor and love that went into creating the backdrops and that they were just being sent to a landfill somewhere.
“I was kicking around this idea for a little while and then had a baby which afforded me the time because I had to step away from stage management to launch Scenery Bags,” Kahn said. “We take retired theatrical backdrops and make them into bags and a percentage of all of our proceeds is donated to TDF to take kids to see theater here in New York City.”
Since launching a year and a half ago, Scenery Bags now offers totes and pouches in a variety of styles. According to Kahn, they make all items in America and ethically source everything since she “personally couldn’t have a company that was helping kids in America and exploiting them elsewhere.” They ship everything to Florida, lay it out, and take photos so they can determine how they want to cut it. After it’s cut, they clean it, assemble the bags, and ship them from that warehouse.
“It’s really fun because even though all of our pouches are relatively similar, we kind of are designing a new bag every time a drop comes in and figuring out well, if it’s too plain do we need to print on it? We’ve started screen printing. We’ve started embroidering,” Kahn told GeekFold.
Since the company’s started, Kahn said they’ve collected over 14,000 pounds of material, the majority of which is black velour from the masking in the wings that hang on the side at shows. This led to them coming up with even more different types of bags like their fashion pieces, such as the “Break a Leg” bag with a pocket for your playbill.
“We launched our new hand painted line so we have our ‘For Good’ bag, our fanny pack, so this is our first kind of foray out of the typical bags into things that are a little bit more fashion forward,” she explained. “These are things we can potentially mass produce since we have so much of that. Everything else is incredibly limited.”
The whole business has helped Kahn combine in her work everything she cares about, and hopefully others do too.
“You get to keep a piece of theater history that meant something to you and know that you’re also keeping it from a landfill and helping a new generation be introduced to theater,” she said. “It’s pieces of all of my heart lumped into one thing.”
Creator of Summer of String Miriam Salzman is currently a stage manager. She was attending BroadwayCon with the Broadway Stage Managers Symposium and vending there for the first time. For Salzman, creating Broadway crafts started as an opening night present and then as a way for giving back to Broadway Cares. She’s always been a Broadway person, but Wicked especially has meaning to her.
“That show I saw when I was 13 and it was what made me realize I could do something else. I didn’t have to be a performer and I soon after that found stage management,” she told GeekFold. “It is the show that made me realize I could have a career in theater and it made me want to just learn everything about it as a profession.”
Now Summer of String offers beautiful unique bracelets inspired by Broadway shows and other fandoms like Doctor Who and Harry Potter. She also creates bracelets inspired by Orphan Black, which led to her making bracelets that appeared in the final four episodes of the TV show. She hand makes every bracelet and how long each takes can vary from eight hours to 15 minutes.
“They’re friendship bracelets like candy stripe bracelets you make as a kid in summer camp, which is where the name of my shop Summer of String derives from. Years of making bracelets in summer camp,” she explained.
While this was her first time with a booth at the convention, she’s attended all four years of BroadwayCon. Seeing how it has grown and changed when it comes to the fashion and crafts available, Salzman said it’s amazing what people make.
“You can wear your fandoms Broadway or otherwise in any way. You can show them off in a T-shirt. You can be more subtle. You can always show what you love and seeing people come together like that is always exciting,” she said.
In the marketplace there were definitely lots of options for fans to choose from. T-shirts could be found at The Colorful Geek while more accessories were at Blonde Swan Hats, Sparkle! Designs, and Broadway Buttons. There were lots of creative ways people were using playbills as well, like the bags by Rediscover Handbags.
Broadwaybounding also had a presence. Like DisneyBounding, BroadwayBounding is when you don’t wear a costume, but instead wear more everyday clothes inspired by the color scheme and other features of a character or other aspect of a production. There was a small “#BroadwayBounding: Broadway Style Meetup” early Saturday to discuss the topic. It was moderated by Sydney Paige, who started BroadwayBounding a year and a half ago. She told the group she was never comfortable with full cosplay so BroadwayBounding was a great fit. She’s created looks inspired by Mark Cohen from Rent, Janis from Mean Girls, and the song “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music.
During the meetup Paige offered tips for starting to BroadwayBound, like avoiding spending a lot of money by being creative with what’s in your closet or going to thrift stores. She also touched on the challenges, including trying to not cross too much into cosplay territory. Paige reminded everyone there are no hard fast rules though, so there’s no need to worry about being exact with your bound.
This convention was the first time I heard about BroadwayBounding and when I asked Paige about the community, she confirmed that it’s quite small. She hopes BroadwayBounding grows as she’d “love to have more people to share it with.” One reason why it might take more time to catch on is that unlike Disney, according to Paige it can be harder for people to recognize BroadwayBounds. She sees it as a very niche area where it’s not as obvious unless you’re in a place like Broadway itself in New York City with fellow fans. There aren’t multiple parks with meetups that you can attend like DisneyBounding often holds.
Still, the overall message of the meetup was one all bounders and geek fashion fans can take to heart, which was “don’t be afraid to do it.”
“Don’t let being afraid of what other people think [stop you.] It’s for you. It’s for you to have fun…” Paige said. “Be yourself. Insert your own personality into it. No one sees a character or a show like you do. Everyone has their own view. No one can do it like you.”
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#JanisSarkisianSunday ... #JanisSarkisianWeekend ... Channeling my inner Janis on this #SarkisianSunday and RESISTING like my fave Mean Girls Broadway character with a #BroadwayBound inspired by the #QUEEN @barrettweed who plays Janis on #Broadway 💚 #MeanGirls #Janis #JanisSarkisian #BarrettWilbertWeed #Bway #MeanGirlsBroadway #MeanGirlsMusical #PaigeEightBlog #ForAllThingsTheatre #TurnToPaigeEight #PaigeEight
Whether it was cosmetics, accessories, or bounding, there was something for everyone in the Broadway-inspired fashion available at the convention. For Kahn, seeing how much everyone was expressing themselves through their fashion was very exciting. With her background passion and career in theater, she recognizes it as a medium of storytelling that never stops giving.
“I love how the show inspires the shirt and the bag and the outfit and everything. That these phrases have become parts of people’s hearts. That it’s imprinted on our psyche and our soul and these mantras that we carry with us that are so meaningful to people…” Kahn said. “I try to always wear something that supports a piece of what I care about and that was a big part of this as well. I think we are more and more wearing our hearts literally on our bodies in some way or on our skin. It’s an important piece of expression and it’s exciting to see how creative people are getting with it. With the repurposing of playbills and now backdrops, it’s nice to see the upcycling trying to be a bit more eco-friendly as we also share our message.”
BroadwayCon will return for its fifth year in early 2020.
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