Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Paradiso 2017: The Eternal Reverie

I haven't written here in forever, so to commemorate my return, I've changed my blog theme! YAY! Check out my new digs!

Last weekend, I attended my very first Lolita-only event in Kansas City, MO, called Paradiso. Hosted by a group of Midwestern Lolitas from all over the region, this Lolita "convention" gives Lolitas and fashion enthusiasts a chance to meet up, shop, and see some fantastic fashion. This year was Paradiso's second year in the running.

Paradiso Artwork, created by Teal Sather.
Before I go any further in my review of the event, I want to give all my readers a disclaimer: I was invited to this event as a member of "press" with the sole purpose of writing a review of Paradiso. With my press pass, I was able to go behind-the-scenes during the fashion show and also attend the event as a VIP. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity that was given to me.

View from my hotel room!

I also want to let everyone know I only attended Day One of Paradiso, so I have no views or opinions to express about Day Two (the tea party). Regardless of that, I can definitely say I enjoyed the time that I spent at Paradiso. I'll do my best to break down my entire experience from start to finish, and thankfully, I brought my new camera with me to help document the experience!

I left home at about 6:30 am to start the drive up to Kansas City. I haven't been up there in a while so I was pleasantly surprised at how beautiful the city is! Even the downtown area felt so clean and pretty. I loved that downtown Kansas City is still urban, without being intimidating. I felt safer walking around Kansas City at night than I do in my own city, XP


The Venue

Paradiso Day One was hosted in the historic Hotel Phillips, which was literally right next to my own hotel. Built in 1931 (according to their website), the hotel has an Art Deco style that reminds me of hidden speakeasies and flapper dresses. I'm pretty sure I commented on how lovely the hotel was a million times. It was noooooiicccceeeee.

First view of the lobby!
The three main areas for Paradiso were the lobby, the mezzanine on the second floor, and the basement. All of Day One was down in the basement, which caused some logistic issues. When I arrived at the hotel, I was told by Paradiso staff that the elevators were incredibly slow and also, there were no stairs. It sounded like a miscommunication between Paradiso staff and the hotel staff because later, hotel staff was able to direct us to a (literally) hidden staircase that would get us down in the basement.

A wild Ouji-sama!
After that, navigating the building got a lot easier. Since I had my press badge, I was allowed to go to each area freely and see what was going on with set-up for everything. I went back upstairs as time got closer to the start of the event to mingle and talk with my fellow attendees.

View from the mezzanine.

We were asked to check-in with a Paradiso staff member in the lobby, and from there, head back down to the basement to get our badges and VIP bags. There was also a collection of refreshments in the corner of the basement "lobby" including water, cookies, maracrons, iced tea and soda.

Registration

Registration!
After getting all my proper credentials at Reg, I went into the basement where all of Paradiso's event was held. We were given time to mingle and shop, with vendors/artists lined against the outer wall of the room. The basement had somewhat dim lighting but I think that added to the venue's Great Gatsby vibe. As attendees poured into the room, a staff member welcomed everyone and told us when the Fashion Show would begin as that was the first event of the day.

The entrance to the basement area.
We were also told that VIP badge-holders were allowed to sit in the chairs at the front of the room. I had a VIP badge so after I walked around and look at all the stuff for sale, I was able to sit in the front row for the fashion show (more on that later).

VIP Bag

VIP Paradiso bag!
Inside of the VIP bag was an assortment of gifts that I thought were cute and/or useful. Each VIP got a collection of stickers, a program book, a $5 (give or take) coupon from Wunderwelt, a Haenuli catalog, some Haenuli stickers, Haenuli's adorable illustrated comic book/diary, a hair bow, and a super cute choker!

The contents of the bag!
I used my bag to help carry around the goodies that I purchased during the event and a few other things that wouldn't fit in my purse, haha.

Vendors/Consignment Shop


Lolita Collective Booth!

Crystal Isis!
The most prominent shops amongst the tables were the Lolita Collective booth and the Consignment/Wunderwelt table. I'll go more into my views on the Consignment shop towards the end of my review, but having Wunderwelt's products in addition to the Consignment items really made that little corner feel like a pop-up shop! I have one complaint, however -- even though the Consignment/Wunderwelt table had the most space out of all the vendors there, it just wasn't *enough* space. Attendees clustered around the table and the clothing racks were positioned in a way that made a tiny little cul-de-sac that got backed-up by people perusing the racks.

Accessories and bags from the Consignment/Wunderwelt booth.

MOAR STUFF!

Socks at the booth!

Gotta get those deals!
Though I understand the logic behind the booth's position (i.e. the entire space was being shared by the event) the flow of traffic in that area wasn't that great. To add, since Day One was the only day that vendors were going to be selling anything, I feel like attendees were that much more desperate to look at Every. Single. Item. and taking as much time in that corner as possible. I have some suggestions for resolving that, but I'll move on for now.

The Consignment/Wunderwelt clothing rack cul-de-sac.

The Fashion Show
Since I'm a terrible reporter who doesn't bother to read the schedule, I had absolutely no idea when the fashion show was supposed to start. Instead, I went upstairs where the models were getting ready on the mezzanine level. Models were everywhere! I already knew what to expect when I walked in the dressing room. It was a perfect example of organized chaos. Models were in clusters by brand or designer, practicing their poses or helping each other make last minute adjustments. I didn't really get a chance to talk to many models or staff in the room, so I just went around and took pictures like a creeper, X_X

Models getting ready for the Fashion Show.
When a staff member came in to give everyone a time warning, I headed back downstairs and grabbed a seat on the front row. The "runway" was marked by the staircase that went down into the basement, the judge's table (for the Ouji-sama pageant) and the photographer who was positioned in a corner diagonally from where I sat. The photographer essentially served as the end of the "runway".

From where I was on the front row, I enjoyed the show. Every model was poised and so close to me that the experience was a lot more engaging than usual for me. The music was okay (one song at the end was particularly awesome!) but I worry that the dim lighting of the venue caused some dark pictures. I'm sure the Photoshop pros of the world can fix it, but I barely know how to work my little point-and-shoot, so it did give me some issues, *ssiiiiigghhh*.

Strike that pose!
Overall, it was a good show. I think models could have used a little more coaching on their pacing because some walked by so fast I couldn't snap their picture in time, T_T Still, that's definitely more of a "me" problem than the show's problem. All and all, the fashion show flowed seamlessly, and I got to see lots of fabulous clothes!

Those boots, *__*
Midwest Ouji-sama Pageant

I'll be 100% honest here and say that I was realllllly worried the Ouji-sama pageant would get real cringe-y, real fast. The premise sounds super cute, but there were so many factors that could have made it awkward as heck.

BUT~!

....This was THE cutest, most entertaining event of the day! (Sorry fashion show peeps, <3).

The fashion show portion of the pageant.
The Midwest Ouji-sama pageant pitted a group of "Ouji-samas" against each other for the title of Midewest Ouji-sama. There were three rounds: a fashion show, an interview, and the "Woo Your Princess" round. Once all three stages were complete, a winner would be chosen based on a combination of votes from the three guest judges (Hello Batty, Prince V, and sora) plus VIP ballots and any ballots that were purchased by regular badge holders.

Once again, I believe some of the participants could have used some coaching as to the fashion show portion of the pageant, but the interview section was hilarious!

Thank you, Prince Jeffery, for existing, XD

Each Ouji was asked one question at random during the interview round: some answers were comedic, others were serious, and some were role-played. Though the interview round was insightful in regards to each contestant, the real fun was the "wooing".

Interviewing the "princes".
The princesses were Paradiso staff members, which I think was a great call on Paradiso's part to avoid any confusion or weird moments. I would have liked to see one staff member per prince, but the three staff members who participated were great sports about each prince's proposition.

Here's where things got a little confusing: VIPs and people who bought ballots were instructed to vote, but none of us were given pens/writing utensils to do so. I understand that this was a minor oversight but I jokingly told an attendee sitting next to me that I was going to have to prick my finger in order to vote. Since most of the voters were people with VIP badges, it would have been a great addition to include cute little pens in our VIP bags. I'm sure it totally slipped everyone's mind that we needed a writing utensil though, and I was able to get one from a staff member so that problem was easily solved.

While ballots were counted, a raffle was held to help bide the time. Again, this was a great move on Paradiso's part because it kept us occupied while they counted ballots behind the scenes. Once the raffle was over, a winner was announced based on a combination of the judges' and crowd vote!

Congrats to the first ever Midwest Ouji-sama~!

Closing Statements/Etc.


Just chilling by the stairs.
After the main event was over, attendees were thanked by staff for attending and reminded about the when and wheres of Day Two. Since everything at that point was over, I just walked around and talked to as many people as I could. Eventually, the remaining few were asked to leave the basement so hotel staff could come in and clean up. 

Overall, it was a great event. I met so many amazing people and saw such fantastic coords! I was really impressed with everything as a whole, and the staff did a good job of making sure things happened in a timely manner. I had a lot of fun!

By the end of Day One, I also regretted not buying a ticket for Day Two, :( 

Concerns, Comments, Suggestions

Personally, I see a lot of growth and potential in Paradiso. I won't profess to be an expert by any means, but given my experience with event planning and conventions as a whole, I can see a few things that could be implemented to improve the overall attendee experience. I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed attending an event where I wasn't actually working it, XP

Security - As Paradiso grows in size, staff should definitely start thinking about security measures to ensure that the event is safe and "normie"-free. Throughout the event, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I didn't encounter lost/confused people wandering into the event space, though I think that had a lot more to do with the isolated location in the basement than anything. I'm not saying that there *was* a security issue, but that there could be. Security checkpoints should be considered to help identify if a person does not belong in the event. That brings me to my next point!

Staff Identification/Signage - Besides the Registration table, there were little to no signs explaining who or where anything was. Of course, common sense says that if you see a bunch of people in poofy dresses like your own, you'll know you're in the right place.  However, I think a sign somewhere in the lobby, noting that you are, in fact, in the right place is comforting, especially for us out-of-town folks. 

It would help too, to have more than one person up front greeting people/doing the check-in process. A couple of folks (myself included) wandered down to registration without checking in at the lobby, only to be told that we needed to go back upstairs to check-in first. When the hotel elevators were already slow as molasses and the event is in the basement, constantly trekking up and down the stairs can make people grumpy or frustrated so it's best to limit their trips as much as possible. 

This kind of goes back into my security issues bit, but staff also need to be better identified. Even though I recognized most of the staff members (because I met them the night before), I won't profess to know all of them. For those people I wasn't sure about, I couldn't really tell if they were staff or not because from a distance their badges looked exactly the same as mine. I could be wrong though, and if I am, this is a totally moot point, XP

Regardless, having a different color badge or something that prominently says "STAFF" would help people with questions easily identify Paradiso staff members and prevent attendees from asking those who may not know the right info (which happened to me a couple times, lol).

Events - This is mostly minor, but it would be nice for Paradiso to have a few more events. I understand that the staff doesn't want people to get hangry (hungry + angry) after being in the space for several hours, but even something like an official Afterparty or maybe even a late night event would be cool. The drive from Dallas to Kansas City was a long one and ultimately, I want enough programming to make such a lengthy trip worth it. I think having just one or two more things to do in the evening would help keep attendees busy and give people more time to socialize. One event that I want to recommend is a Swap and Sell, which ties-in with the next suggestion: removing/changing the Consignment shop.

Consignment Shop/Vendors - At its base, the Consignment shop sounds like a good idea, but given that there is only one day to sell goods, it seems like a lot of work for such little payout.

From a staff perspective, checking in items, watching everyone's goods, and making sure people get their money afterward is a lot of extra work that could be eliminated almost entirely with a Swap and Sell. In addition, the lengthy process to even get one's items sold during Day One turns off attendees from submitting anything. It also eliminates one of the biggest benefits of buying used Lolita: the ability to haggle. Switching to a Swap and Sell instead of having a Consignment shop would actually serve two purposes --  first, it would introduce an extra event like I mentioned earlier, and secondly (more importantly), it makes attendees responsible for their own goods. When you give your attendees the job of selling, trading and keeping up with their own stuff, it removes the risk/stress of staff having to do it.

It also prevents Paradiso from being held *legally liable* for consignment items, which I think is important for an event that's just starting out. Staff members can then focus their energy on something else. On top of all that, switching to a swap would free up even more space for Wunderwelt items or Paradiso specific merch at the booth.

Panels - This section is purely a commentary on my part (so feel free to skip it!), but Paradiso didn't have ANY panels and I absolutely did not care. Typically, I attend Lolita events at anime cons and there are always fashion panels, such as Lolita 101 and the like. Paradiso doesn't have any of that and frankly, I didn't miss it. There's only so much an experienced Lolita can teach other Lolitas so I much preferred the focus on the major events. Paradiso served as a great place to meet and hang out with Lolitas that are outside of my local Texas comms. The event wasn't educational (in the "Intro to Lolita Fashion" sense) in any way and it didn't try to be because that isn't Paradiso's demographic. I have a lot of respect for that.

After reading this post, I'm sure you're thinking: "Well dang, J, you said all that but you didn't answer the most important question!" To which I say: I had to do something to keep you reading, right?? XP

Would I attend Paradiso again? Absolutely. Without a doubt, I want to go back to Paradiso, even if it's in the same location as this year's event. I had an absolute blast at the con and if the stars align (and Paradiso stays on Memorial Day weekend), I plan to go back and attend for both Day One and Two.

I truly hope that Paradiso staff recognizes their potential because they truly have something magical going on up there. Hopefully, they will continue to improve the event, while also listening to feedback from their attendees in earnest. Nothing is worse for a new program than becoming stagnate in the early stages due to being stubborn and plugging their ears. Though I doubt that will be an issue for Paradiso, it's definitely something to keep in mind for the future.

Thanks for sticking with me from start to finish! This is probably my longest review ever, but I wanted to make sure I was thorough for those that couldn't attend.

Now that Paradiso is over, I've gotta get everything ready for A-Kon 28! I'm not sure what I was thinking; attending two major Lolita events within mere weeks of each other, but I guess I'm a fan of torturing myself, haha. I ordered some items from SouffleSong for Paradiso that I received too late (*sobs*), and I also put in a HUGE Taobao order for A-Kon, so please look forward to more product reviews in the future!

Which Lolita events have you attended this year? Did you enjoy them or were they terrible? Perhaps you have some fashion events you'd like to recommend I attend? Tell me all about it in the comment box below, y'all!

Until next time, my lovely readers! <3

Stay beautiful, stay true,
~J

1 comment:

  1. Paradise sounds like it was very fun, I totally would've loved to attend the Ouji pageant! I haven't been to any Lolita events so far this year, but I am going to the biggest one in the U.K. this August and I even got a VIP ticket, so I'm mega hyped for that!

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