In May of 2020, the group that would come to be known as Bay Area Kei hosted their first virtual j-fashion event, Ursa Major. Normally, many of the panelists would have been participating in Fanime, an anime convention in San Jose held the last weekend in May. A year later and with half a dozen virtual events under their belt, Bay Area Kei hosted Ursa Major 2 (also called Ursa Major 2021). While the first Ursa Major featured some panels and a marketplace, the show runners have had a year to experiment and find out what works (or doesn’t) for their virtual event.
Ursa Major 2 now features a virtual event featuring panels on Twitch, dedicated chats, a tea party, a fashion walk, and a vendor marketplace. In addition to a community fashion walk, Ursa Major also now includes a DIY showcase and contest, allowing attendees to submit crafts of all kinds to a panel held on Saturday. Since many attendees make wearable and edible art to go with the theme, it only made sense to let everyone show off their creativity.
BAK’s discord server is now active even in between events, but there were specific threads dedicated to Ursa Major. It’s always fun to see the panelists pop into the chat to share resources or ask questions that they might not have had time for during their panels. There’s also places to share coordinates, snacks, and just chat with other attendees.
This year’s Ursa Major featured 21 vendors, including brands from the United States, Korea, Russia, the Netherlands, France and Japan. Vendors offered new collections, discount codes, and exclusive items made just for Ursa Major. As usual, the amount of choices is paralyzing. Some brands even have mini bloodbaths for their limited or one of a kind pieces. I purchased a pair of cute old school socks from the Black Ribbon. I also took advantage of KuroShiro Kawaii’s free ship to get myself a Fluffy Tori pin. Whether you were looking to get art prints or dresses, Ursa Major had something for everyone.
Of particular note, Ursa Major 2021 featured a few Japanese vendors. These included Emily Temple Cute and Flores Astorum, a shopping service/English store front for several independent Japanese designers. Flores Astorum featured exclusive collections and items designed for Ursa Major in addition to their normal stock of accessories and clothing.
Panels range from crafting and DIY to baking, cooking, or bartending, to game shows and community forums. Because this is a dedicated j-fashion space, it’s wonderful to get to see the content expand beyond “j-fashion 101” panels.
I appreciated how concrete the suggestions for this panel were. The slides contained videos which demonstrated the techniques discussed. Several times, the audience asked questions and the panelists had several garments on hand to quickly demonstrate the suggested fixes. Having two people in the same room made the panel feel very conversational and kept everything moving along. This was also a great panel to watch live because the panelists were so responsive to audience questions.
Always one of my favorite parts of any BAK event, this fashion walk was carefully edited to group coordinates together into aesthetic or thematic portions. The chat is always so warm and welcoming. I love trying to find all of the participants on social media so I can follow them for more fashion content.
Panelist Denise commented at one point that her panel was “Bob Ross but with more swearing.” Watching this panel live felt like hanging out with a friend painting their nails while cracking jokes and telling your all their cosmetic secrets. Denise did a fantastic job of answering questions as they popped in the chat about everything from polish choices to juicy indie polish drama. The “nail cam” gave an excellent view of the designs on each nail. If you’re looking for inspiration, one of the five designs completed in this panel are sure to pique your interest.
As usual, Mani and Pie roasted and toasted new releases from lolita brands and let the audience vote on whether dresses were a “star” or “bizarre”. Normally, these panels make excellent of use a Twitch bot to run a poll in the chat. However, the bot missed the memo and didn’t appear in the chat. Luckily, the hardworking BAK tech crew quickly threw together straw polls so that the panel could continue as usual. I was so impressed by how easily both panelists rolled with the punches. While the BAK events are always warm and welcoming, Kowaii or Kawaii often has some of the most vocal and animated audience members. It is always so fun to be in part of the live stream of this panel.
While I’m not super into astrology, the chat was full of lots people who were having a blast discussing astrology. While there was some good natured jokes at the expense of everyone, the panel was light and a fun way to start the day. Look out in the future for astrology memes, including what brands correspond with each zodiac sign.
Genuinely devastated that I couldn’t see this panel in person. The slides made for this panel worked perfectly and really made this panel feel like a game show. It seems like there needed to be a better system for buzzing in, but the host and participants made it work. The team at BAK also had their pun gun set to kill. The clues and answers had me in tears at times.
While lolita has spread all over the world, but I don’t always get to hear about the communities outside of the United States. This panel featured panelists from Ireland, Mexico, Korea, and Malaysia who all shared their experiences wearing lolita in their country. It was amazing how universal some experiences were (“Are you in a play?!”) and how lolita fashion could be incorporated into regional or cultural styles. This is the second international lolita roundtable, and I really hope that we get to hear from more lolitas from around the world in the future.
Pengu of Flores Astorum interviewed and translated for Akiko of Vierge Vampur, who relayed her inspiration for her iconic designs. I was particularly amazed to hear to her origin story. Akiko didn’t live in Tokyo, so she encountered lolita fashion the same way that so many of us did – through finding a Gothic and Lolita Bible! It was also incredible to hear that she first designed a lolita garment was to attend a concert. There were no shops nearby that sold it, so she made her own! She also put lolita aside when she began working full time before falling back in love with it when she was a young adult. Her design origin story sounds so much like western lolita designers! The interview is only about an hour, and it’s well worth it hear the whole thing.
There were tons of other panels I wasn’t able to attend or write about including panels about “Femmes in Stem”, aging in alternative fashion, and a deep dive into indie brand sizing with Halley of the Black Ribbon and Aria of Lilith et Adalia. All of the panels are available for viewing after the event, so definitely check them out.
BAK will be taking a break until October, but there are several other events happening in the meantime. You can watch the closing Bearemony for more details. It has been wonderful to have so many virtual events this year. Especially those from BAK! However, I’m looking forward to attending a few in person. Fingers crossed for the end of this year.
By day, Jenna is a legal professional living in Los Angeles, California. By night (and weekends), she is a frill wearing monster who loves Innocent World and lolita indie brands. When she isn’t taking mirror selfies of her coordinates, she enjoys reading comic books, playing board games, and snuggling with her pup, Lily. You can see her mirror selfies on her instagram @lovelylaceandlies and contact her at email@example.com.
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