Quirky ‘cosplay’ culture becomes the norm in Surrey

SURREY – AniRevo, ComicCon, VCon – these are all events at which "cosplayers," or costume players, can get decked out in costumes, wigs and outlandish attire, and become their favourite popculture characters for a day. That’s right, Superman outfits and face paint aren’t reserved just for Halloween anymore.


And no one in Surrey knows that better than Rene Schindel.


"They call them the ‘Cons,’" said Schindel, who owns and operates North Surrey’s The Costume Bank, a business that rents, sells and custom creates costumes for everything from steampunk conventions to outfitting theatre productions.


The retired high school sewing teacher opened up her shop in 2008 when she realized she’d amassed enough of her daughter’s dance costumes to clothe a small village of Halloween enthusiasts.


The shop owner and custom costumer saw the niche opportunity to keep many of her costumes and stay working while she was at it. One of her many claims to fame is designing costumes for Monty Python’s Spamalot.


"This is my ‘Don’t stay at home and rot’ (business)," she said earnestly. "I don’t do it for the money, I live on my pension."


Now Schindel rents and sells costumes out of her North Surrey shop, often dressing people year round for theme parties, events, plays and more. She’s


created everything from 300-pound Vikings to anime Lolitas to the entire line-up of ’70s rock band KISS.


"I go from cavemen to 1920s flappers," she said.


Recent trends include a Great Gatsby themed wedding, in which the store-owner and seamstress is suiting up the parents of the bride.


"I sell some things and I custom make some things. I will do alterations. I just did an alteration for Donatello," she said of the popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fame. Schindel also regularly does costumes for those into manga and anime.


"I’ve done Tuxedo Mask. I do him often because he lives here," she said. "I’m in the process of getting a Lolita finished so she can wear it on Saturday or Sunday."


Teens who are involved in the Surrey Libraries’ anime club may be apt to drop by Shindel’s shop before the library’s second annual cosplay picnic happening today (Thursday, Aug. 28).


The event’s co-odinator, Ellen Wu, kicked off the first Teen Cosplay Picnic last year at Holland Park as a summer wrap-up party


for the anime club, which has been meeting and operating out of the library since the fall of 2011.


People aged 13 to 18 who aren’t currently part of the anime club are also welcome to join, however.


"I think it’s a fun way for teens who are already in anime club to express their creativity," Wu said. "I don’t know if there’s a need for cosplay, but we thought it would be a really great way to allow those teens in anime club to celebrate over the summer as well as bring in teens who might be into cosplay but haven’t heard of anime club."


Among free food and fun games, Wu said what she’s most looking forward to is the creativity of the teens who come to the picnic.


"I’m always going to be surprised by the teens and what they come up with,"


Wu admitted. "I know that superheroes are very popular. A new version of Sailor Moon has come out in manga and anime…. Those are kind of perennial favourites."


The teen cosplay picnic is set to accommodate 40 to 60 teens when it they show up today (Aug. 28) at the new City Hall Plaza at 2 p.m. Wu said there will be snacks such as onigiri (Japanese rice balls), games such as suikawari – a Japanese traditional game where people split a watermelon open with a stick, blindfolded – and anime pictionary.


"We’ll be handing out prizes for the best costumes, too," she said.


The event is free, and teens between the ages of 13 and 18 can register for the program at 604-598-7426.

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