You know that feeling when you’re walking around a convention and there’s one specific booth that stands out from the rest? For me, that booth was //CUT/SEW. Which, let me tell you, that’s not an easy task for an convention as elusive as KatsuCon. After meeting the people behind it, I learned that their extremely fashionable presentation was only the tip of the iceberg on how cool this company is.
The owner and creative director, Madison May is based out of Orlando. We asked her if living and working in Orlando was important for her brand to thrive. She said:
"Being based in Orlando has been a really interesting lesson in how sewing is perceived outside of niche cosplay communities. Broadly speaking, Orlando is a direct intersection of a lot of different ideas that relate to what we’re trying to do as a company: it’s a huge Southeastern hub for cosplay, it has a consistently thriving music and art scene, and there’s a notable smattering of costume professionals locally thanks to the theme park and cruise line industry based in Central Florida. We launched here not just because it’s my home-of-the-moment and an incredibly creative city that I’m really proud to live in, but also the thought was that we would have a lot of support locally from the diverse artistic communities that have cropped up and, as a small business, we would be able to vibe with other local stores and artists to get our concept off the ground."
It’s undeniable that cosplay and fashion have intertwined almost seamlessly in the past few years. //CUT/SEW markets itself in both. Regardless of where a patron of //CUT/SEW started their interest, Madison developed this brand with her audience in mind every step of the way. When asked about it, she stated:
"The reality is that, outside of pop culture and anime conventions, we don’t actually have a lot of interest in our products from a retail perspective. Our biggest challenge as a brand has been selling people who aren’t cosplayers on the idea of making their own clothes and really pushing the creative independence that comes with that process. There’s a lot of hesitance and self-doubt when it comes to sewing from otherwise highly creative people, and we’ve really made it our goal to instill a sense of self confidence and empowerment in people who like our styles. If I had a dollar for every time someone came up to me at one of our pop up shops and said “I love this but I can’t sew,” and then walked away, I could retire at 25.
When we first launched, I didn’t primarily think of CUT/SEW as a cosplay-specific company, but rather a street fashion company that could also help the cosplay community as part of our overall mission. Since we’ve been in business, we’ve leaned into the cosplay label primarily because that community doesn’t need any convincing as to why it’s rewarding to wear what you make - they get how empowering it is, although sometimes very intimidating, to go out into the world doing your own thing."
When it comes to cosplay and fashion pattern makers pioneering their way through the business world, especially when the boom of cosplay culture is still slowly making it’s way into the mainstream, you have to wonder how it all started out.
"We’re stuck in this weird area of growing pains for the cosplay community that’s definitely tricky to navigate as the kind of small business that we are. I started working full-time on making CUT/SEW happen in 2015, which was a point where major pattern companies had only released a few off-hand patterns explicitly for cosplay and that was still a huge gap in the market. Only a few months into our Indiegogo launch campaign, the major players in pattern making started aggressively pursuing the cosplay community and one-by-one released lines or collections geared towards people who were making cosplay or niche street fashion."
People who are especially new to sewing themselves are probably wondering, “How do you feel about the big names putting out their own line of cosplay and fashion patterns a few years ago?” Luckily, //CUT/SEW isn’t worried about that at all.
"In all honesty, I don’t in any way keep track of what major pattern companies are producing for their respective cosplay lines or how they’re trying to engage with cosplayers. Each company tries to branch out in different ways in an attempt to be “one of the boys”, and our M.O. isn’t to infringe on that or try to keep pace. Everyone on our team has been really involved in cosplay at some point or is a huge fan of these obscure, fascinating nooks of street fashion, so we’re not trying to sell our patterns by advertising like crazy and nudging our way into the market. We kind of are the market, so for us it’s more about using CUT/SEW as an experimental space to make the kinds of things that we wanted to see, how we wanted to see them.
It goes without saying that we’re not on the same level or scale as the major pattern companies are - we may never be, but that’s not in any way our agenda. We’re an incredibly small team of people who all volunteer our time for this project in the hopes that it’ll just keep growing, and we do so because we love dressing up, or making stuff, or both. None of us come from a business background; we’re artists and creative professionals who, in some cases, gave up our day job because we wanted to be able to make something cool and support this amazing community of cosplayers, fashion bloggers, and fans that are already out there. These guys are rekindling the craft of sewing, a craft which is otherwise dying out, and that’s not something to take lightly in any way. Everyone in the fashion industry has an obligation to help each other out if we want to keep passing this kind of knowledge down."
Rounding out the interview, it seemed imperative to ask Madison about their own personal goals with the style for her brand. Even in the depths of the most colorful part of LA, Madison’s presentation of her products definitely holds it’s own. Madison told us what it’s like working with her team on developing their own distinct aesthetic.
"I try to stay away from the stereotypical “Neon LA Hipster” look when working on our pop up shop space or patterns, but it’s also important not veer too far into “Japanese FRUiTS” territory. Visually and aesthetically we’re very much trying to do our own thing - we’re not trying to copy/paste replicate something that’s already out there - but we’re still evolving and growing as a brand so what shape that takes is changing as we grow.
It’s such a cool thing because CUT/SEW itself has an aesthetic, but as a brand our entire schtick is that we cater to this variety of looks and styles so we really have to act as a blank canvas within our own brand. I worked really hard with our incredibly amazing illustrator, TJ, to cultivate this overall look that served three main goals: It’s true to both of our own personal quirks as artists, it’s true to the overall brand that we’ve decided on, but it’s still flat enough that our customers can project their own ideas and style onto what we provide."
Find //CUT/SEW here: https://heycutsew.com/
Do you use patterns in your cosplay? Who should we interview next? Let Nerdbot know in the comments!