Event Report: Kawaii Festival Berlin
This year, fans and lovers of Japanese Fashion met once again at the Kawaii Festival in Berlin, the capital of Germany, to swap ideas, have fun, and take note of our best outfits. This festival of fashion has been of great need in Germany—where big anime and manga conventions usually dominate—in order to properly celebrate Harajuku.
This year’s festival took place on 28th of July, 2018 at HO Berlin and just like in the previous year, it was led and organized by the creative heads Melissa Lee and Florian Balke. Berlin-born Melissa is a show host, a video producer for her own YouTube Channel “breedingunicorns”, and a fashion designer for her brand “Mademoiselle Opossum” which specializes in Lolita Fashion and other Harajuku-inspired styles.
Both her and her partner Florian Balke started the Kawaii Festival rather spontaneously in 2017, which quickly required improvisation as problems began to appear concerning the location for one of the Mademoiselle Opossum fashion shows. Thus, the previous festival had been organized in a very short amount of time but received high popularity and positive response regardless, which is why they came up with the idea of repeating the event in the years to come. One thing is certain: Melissa and Flo created something important the German scene had needed for a long time!
The whole location was designed to match this year’s slogan, “Iconic Eki” (eki = station). There were even ticket inspectors wearing special uniforms to fit the theme and the hall shared a strong resemblance with an old train shed. With 1200 tickets available, the event remained rather intimate and small which made it easy to talk to like-minded people and to establish a sense of community. Besides well-known personalities of the German YouTube and fashion scene, you could see people of all different ages and styles. This was the best environment to form new friendships and to discuss our favourite topic: fashion!
The first hallway, decorated with pink and silver lametta, balloons, and one big, fluffy mascot greeting you at the entrance, led you past Kuoko, a German musician, some manga and anime stalls, a demo of the visual novel Boys Laugh +, and a fabulous picture wall. Following up was a room themed like a Japanese bar where you could taste different kinds of sake, as well as a gambling room inspired by the anime Kakegurui, where you could play billiards or poker. After that, you got past an age 16+ corner, with clothes made out of varnish and latex for sale and a VR-Game you could try out. The karaoke room was right next to it. Eventually you entered the main hall, which was a big open space with a stage and a catwalk for the fashion show coming later. It was impossible to get bored by all the different stalls—you could buy cute cupcakes at KawaiiKitchen, you could get a temporary tattoo at Cira Las Vegas’ stall, you could buy clothes at Melissa’s own brand, or even take a look at what Haruka Kurebayashi’s stall had to offer. You didn’t have to worry about food either! Outside you could buy different kinds of original Japanese festival food: takoyaki, yakisoba, and shaved ice desserts, to name a few.
Shortly after the official entry time, the German performance group Pastelgirls danced to popular J-Pop songs for the festival’s opening performance. After a heartfelt welcoming speech by Melissa and Flo, guest speaker Liv Rothhaar talked about her experience traveling to Japan, followed by a short break. Everyone was looking forward to what was coming up next—the Decora Fashion Contest, with judges Haruka Kurebayashi and StrawbellyCake, a German singer and YouTuber. The participants’ outfits were all amazingly bright, creative, and diverse. Some were influenced by Menhera and Yami Kawaii and others wore Kigurumi. The winner was chosen by the judges and Melissa, who paid attention not only to their style but also to their personalities and what they had to say about Decora as well. The judges chose Alex to win, who has a cheerful personality and a very sophisticated and traditional Decora style. Immediately afterwards, Puppe’n Mucke, a German-Japanese band based in Berlin, provided great music and even had their own stall at the festival. At around 5pm, Haruka Kurebayashi’s Q&A session started, where she answered questions from both the audience and online. During the times at her own stall fans could take photos with her or ask for an autograph. She was a great presence for the festival altogether and due to her colourful personality and cheerful attitude, she was able to bring Berlin a little closer to Harajuku.
Eventually the festival’s highlight was coming up next: Mademoiselle Opossum’s fashion show “Sweet Sacrifice”, combining Harajuku Fashion and religious themes. To save themselves the best view, people were already occupying seats hours beforehand. As music, perfectly fitting the theme, resonated and the first model opened the show with her singing, gazes were suddenly full of astonishment and excitement. Regardless of whether an angelic figurine wearing a garland of burning candles, or a flamboyantly dressed man with a cane and gown was walking down the catwalk, everyone was caught up in the intense atmosphere and it was impossible to look away. Everyone’s anticipation had created huge expectations which the show completely exceeded.
At last, after the announcement of the raffle winners and another short break in between, the festival closed with a performance from Japanese music duo FEMM. They performed their hit songs and entertained the crowd for about half an hour. Shortly afterwards, we were able to get autographs and ask for pictures.
With another speech and many grateful words from Melissa and Flo, they announced the end of the festival as well as the start of the afterparty: Korean Nights, at around 9:45pm, which lured many people onto the dancefloor. We partied deep into the night and celebrated this eventful day full of fun, new friendships, and experiences with other guests and the organizers.
All the effort and love that was put into this event, as well as the positive response and the increasing amount of participants, were proof alone of the big love for Harajuku Fashion here in Germany. And in that sense: I am looking forward to next year and can’t wait to see what will happen at Kawaii Festival 2019!
Written by Stefanie