Candy Keane is a cosplayer, model and costume designer from Huntsville, Ala. living in Jacksonville, Florida. She got her start in the costume business in 2005, and since then has made costumes for customers all around the world. Her work has been featured in movies, TV, magazines and has been worn to many conventions, by herself and others. Candy took the time to sit down with us and give us a little insight into costume design, cosplay and owning your own business.
When did you first become interested in costume design and cosplay?
I can’t remember ever not being interested in it. Costumes were always a big part of my life. I spent a lot of my early years running around in Wonder Woman Underoos. I got interested in doing it professionally after selling some of my old costumes on eBay. Once I realized people would pay me to do something I loved, I never looked back.
(Candy creates a variety of Wonder Woman costumes, each one unique)
What is a typical day like for you?
My day starts really early, before I even get to the store. I spend the first couple hours answering e-mails, updating the websites, social networking and prepping orders. I have to be ready to hit the ground running once I walk in the door. Usually once I get in it is non-stop until closing time. I take care of all the orders from the website and then start on the custom costume work. I am making costumes in the back half of the store and I usually have someone helping take care of customers in the front half. Once I get home, I usually still end up working if there isn’t an event we’re going to. I take home a lot of costume homework. I have a workshop at home as well as my store. No matter how hard I try, costuming still takes over the entire house.
(When makeup company MAC released a new "Hello Kitty" line, one of the stores commissioned costumes from Candy to match the costumes featured in the good kitty & bad kitty ads.)
What are you up to when you’re not cosplaying?
When I’m not cosplaying, I’m making costumes and planning the next costume event. It’s a 24-7 thing for me since it’s a full-time business. I do have to get out and do other things though so I don’t get burned out. I love spending time in my pool and doing things outdoors. I spend a lot of time hunched over a sewing machine or sitting on the floor with crafts spread everywhere, so I try to get out and be active when I can.
What kind of research do you do when preparing for new character to portray?
I try and find tons of photos to base the outfit on. If I’m not doing an exact replica, I take the basic elements of the character and work my own design around it. I also research the character’s background. It’s usually the outfit that draws me in, but it’s the overall character that makes me stay and want to bring it to life. If it’s a character from a video game, I play the game. If it’s a book or series, I read or watch all the episodes.
(Candy has created a variety of characters including steampunk saloon madams, Alice from Resident Evil, Lagoona Blue and Aeon Flux)
Where do you look for inspiration? What is your creative process like?
My biggest inspiration comes from comics and video games, or movies based on comics and video games. Those characters have the best outfits! I’m not really interested in characters that just wear jeans and t-shirts.
(This is Candy's awesome interpretation of mischievous DC villain Harley Quinn. Photos by John Rennie Photography)
I love your custom Princess Leia slave-girl costumes.
What was your favorite cosplay costume to design and what was your favorite event?
Thank you! Slave Leia was one of my first big costumes, but my favorite character to design is Wonder Woman. She has so many different outfits! I’ve worn 5 different versions so far and am working on a new one. Sometimes I recreate her actual outfits and sometimes I do my own design. I also like that Wonder Woman is a little more family-friendly. I was actually asked to cover up while walking through a casino in Vegas, on my way to the Fetish & Fantasy Ball, while wearing Slave Leia. I thought that was pretty ridiculous. It was Vegas of all places.
(Candy's Slave Leia costume has been featured on E!'s "TV's 25 Most Memorable Swimsuit Moments")
My favorite event is DragonCon. There is nothing else like it. As soon as you arrive you feel like running to your room to put on a costume. It is the best convention for people who love to costume and have fun with convenience of a hotel room within walking distance. While most conventions consist of getting dressed, driving to the con, staying the day and going home- you never leave DragonCon because there is no convention center, it just takes over all the hotels. It is so much easier to wear a complicated costume when you know you have a place to rest and take it off when you want.
(Candy has been featured as Miss March in the 2011 Girls of the Con Calendar)
Do you consider yourself a girl gamer? What is your favorite video game?
I don’t consider myself a gamer girl anymore. I used to be, but now I study them more than play them. While I used to stay up until 4AM obsessively trying to beat the game, now I stay up obsessively trying to make the costume. But that’s also why I don’t play them too much anymore. I won’t stop until it’s done. I used to dream about video games in my sleep.
(Candy has recreated several "Dawn" costumes, including Spanish Rose Dawn from "Cry For Dawn")
Do you have any advice for someone looking to get into costume design or cosplay?
For cosplayers- learn about your character before you go out in public dressed like them. I think one of the most annoying things is someone basing their decision solely off the character’s outfit and knowing nothing about them. And it’s ok to buy a packaged outfit, just don’t wear it right out of the bag, wrinkles and all. Add a little something to it. Small modifications can make a big difference.
For costume designers—learn to sew and make your own original costumes. There’s not a lot of actual designing involved in just copying a character’s outfit perfectly. A lot of skill, yes, but actual designing means coming up with something original.
(A twisted take on a classic favorite, "Alice in Wonderland")
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
Teleportation! I love going new places, I just don’t so much enjoy the process of getting there.
(These Fall Fairy and Fire Fairy costumes feature some of Candy's custom corset designs)
What was your favorite Halloween costume growing up?
I was a belly dancer several times. I loved doing that one because my mom and I would make the outfit together and cover it with pretty beads and sequins. She was an entertainer so she taught me how to twirl a veil when I was 6. Making costumes together is what made me love the art of costuming as much as wearing the costumes.
You can see more of Candy's costumes along with details on how she made them at www.CandyKeane.com.