Meet J. Hart Design
Today we’re bringing you an interview with Joshua Hart, the creative force behind J. Hart Design and the amazing Bouquet de Fleur pattern. Joshua has a BFA in Fashion Design and over ten years of sewing and cosplay experience. His creations are couture works of art that showcase his love for unique silhouettes, impeccable fit, and intricate details. If you have a chance, definitely seek out the lectures, panels, and workshops that he does at national and international conventions to share his craftsmanship skills and industry knowledge. And read on for the full interview and costume eye candy!
When did you first get interested in cosplay?
I first became interested in cosplay through attending Renaissance festivals. Enamored by the beautiful brocades and sweeping gowns, I sought out the skills to create these gorgeous pieces for myself. After making friends with Renaissance Festival attendees and several people in theatre, I learned about a local Anime convention, Otakon, and I pounced on the chance to create costumes based on my favorite video game characters. The experiences I had while creating and wearing my early cosplays were absolutely magical; I still reflect on them fondly!
What was the first cosplay you made?
The first costume I created was Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy 7. I attended the convention with friends dressed as characters from the same series. I taught myself how to knit and make armor for that costume. Despite the shoddy craftsmanship, it was tremendously empowering and I was so proud of my efforts.
How did you learn to sew?
I taught myself how to sew through books and the VERY FEW online resources available at the time. I stitched all my costumes by hand for the first several years and this was a valuable lesson in handwork, fabric manipulation, and some couture work. Understandably, I was extremely excited when my parents bought my first machine! There was, and still is, a copious amount of trial and error in costuming; with each project I forced myself to learn a new technique or skill. Every failure fueled me, propelling me towards my desired standards of workmanship.
What inspires you?
I am most inspired by historical fashion plates. The beautifully drawn images of elegantly poised men and woman in the latest fashion trends, fabrication, trimmings, and silhouettes leave me swooning. I always attempt to bring some historical elements into my costumes as it helps to ground the design in reality.
What’s your favorite cosplay?
This is one of the most difficult questions! I create costumes for myself purely out of adoration for the design and character. Hundreds of hours go into each costume, from patterning to sewing to handwork. They become like children; I have strong attachments to each costume.
Tell us about your creative process.
I begin all my costumes with research and brainstorming. The most crucial element of a costume’s success is the maker’s understanding of the character, the world in which they exist, and the techniques needed to bring a two dimensional character into reality. With this information, I am able to source materials, trims, underlining, lining, and notions to suit my reference materials and my design aesthetic. Once the appropriate fabrics are chosen, I begin to create the pattern using a combination of flat patternmaking and draping. I construct a muslin/toile from my initial pattern using similar, but cheaper fabrics. Once the pattern is fitted and design elements are assessed, the pattern is finalized and material consumptions can be calculated for purchasing.
What was the most labor-intensive project that you made?
Even the most simplistic costume can be quite labor-intensive depending on the construction techniques used and hidden elements within the design. My most detailed costume is Le Noir from Granado Espada. It is a massive outfit with 17 crinoline and skirt layers, thousands of pearls and rhinestones, and handmade feathered brooches. The total weight of the costume is over 40lbs and is worn with 12″ shoes. It is definitely a workout to wear Le Noir!
What was your favorite commission?
My favorite commission was one of my closest and oldest friend’s wedding dress. It was such an honor to make it for her.
What else have you worked on?
I have worked as a costume designer on several plays and musicals, a costume consultant for an upcoming TV show, and as a tailor for menswear and a seamstress for bridal alterations. I currently work as a technical designer for a fashion company in NYC.
Why do you think cosplay is so Popular?
The rise in cosplay’s popularity can be attributed to the mass appeal and success of popular movie and TV franchises, coupled with the prominence of cosplayers on social media, and the influence of childhood nostalgia. But most importantly, who doesn’t like to emulate their favorite fictional characters?
I named several of my dress forms and sewing machines after characters on Scooby Doo…