For weeks, the Bay Area Kei, a team of j-fashion fans who have held a series of virtual events beginning in May 2020, have been promoting their first in person event: a holiday pop-up shop. The two day event was held December 11-12 at the Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco’s Japantown. I jumped at the chance to spend time in the Bay area and visit the pop-up. Their event included an in-person indie marketplace, a tea party, photobooth with a professional photographer, and a coordinate contest.
Huge thank you to Rachel, my roommate for the weekend, who graciously let me use the photos that she took (because I’m a bad blogger and took exactly 0 photos!)
The BAK pop-up also featured two intimate tea party sessions at the conveniently located Crown and Crumpet tea room, just across the street from the venue. Session were limited to about 12 attendees, which included a BAK host. In addition to checking everyone in and making sure that Crown and Crumpet was aware of dietary restrictions, the hosts also organized games for the attendees, including a “forbidden word game” and a print matching game, complete with prizes. I also appreciated that our place cards had a place to write down our interests, which definitely got people around the table asking questions and making friends. Crown and Crumpet’s vast tea menu was a little overwhelming, but with 12 people there were plenty of tea pots with different selections to try! The selection of food included sandwiches, sweets, crumpets, and scones, plus some delicious jam, lemon curd, and clotted cream. Everything that I tried was excellent, but my favorite was their scones! Because the tea took place in December, Crown and Crumpet also provided everyone with Christmas crackers. This was just as chaotic as it sounds.
The BAK team chose Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco’s Japantown as their venue. The spacious lobby offered plenty of places for photo opportunities (including a little koi pond outside that offered fantastic light), a bar, and lots of places to sit and chat with other attendees. The hotel was also small enough that when a j-fashion fan wandered inside, it was pretty easy to spot where the pop-up was (just follow the people in the frilly fashion). I stayed at the hotel and the rooms were decked out with Japanese inspired décor. (Also shout out to the absolutely ridiculous rain shower in our room.)
The hotel was conveniently located directly next to the Japantown Peace Plaza and the Japan Center Malls and an enormous, reasonably priced parking structure. Also, it’s right across the street from the San Francisco Baby store!
Shopping for the pop-up opened at 12 PM Saturday and because I ended up as part of the morning session of the tea party, I arrived about an hour late. It turns out this was a critical mistake. To make sure that the event went as smoothly as possible BAK team members limited the number of people inside the shop. When I arrived there was a line that snaked through the lobby to get in! Luckily, I had something in common with my fellow line members, and time flew by as we chatted about coordinates, the tea party, and our shopping lists. BAK required all attendees to show proof of vaccination and ID at the door and once they’d checked, handed over a wristband for easy re-entry.
I’m not sure what I was expecting from BAK’s first event but the variety and amount of stuff blew me away! There were three clothing racks and two 6 foot tables full of consignment items which ranged from casual j-fashion cutsews and sweaters to elaborate OTT lolita dresses and accessories. Items were marked with brand, sizing, and price info. But there was also a fitting room so attendees could try things on. Fortunately for me, the things that I liked in the consignment section sold before I could make-up my mind about them.
Unfortunately, the temptations did not stop there. Directly beside the entrance, 3 enormous tables held accessories from brands like Marchen Maiden, PopPrincess Designs, Ivy Frozen, Dandy Puppeteer and many, many more. There was something for everyone, from over the top gothic necklaces, to cozy cottage-core inspired hats, to adorable sweet bracelets and brooches. Two racks beside it held items from the Lolita Collective, the Black Ribbon, and Kaneko. (This is where most of my money went this weekend) Iris, owner of Iris Garden, had two full booths of Korea lolita brands, including her own brand plus Lief, Baroque, and items from Haneuli (like the Mossbadger collaboration).
Though lolita was definitely well represented, it wasn’t the only kind of fashion available! Loungewear brand Lomo Loungewear had their stock of cozy robes and cute pajamas, which are truly perfect for the sleepy goth in your life. Resin artist My Morning Tea had her own booth, which kawaii earrings, keychains, and collar pins. Plenty of her items sold out by the end of day one!
It was such a treat to be able to see all these items in person, because honestly pictures only go so far in sell something! For example Tea Love Crochet, a fiber arts indie brand, had a number of items available. The brand had posted previews of their items on Instagram, including some cute peppermint hats perfect for Christmas. The hats looked like comfy, slouchy beanies with a puff ball on top. However, when I got to touch the items, I realized that the thick yarn the artist had chosen held it’s shape, and the hat was much more like a beret than I’d realized.
Ultimately I went home with 4 items, which I’ll review more indepth later this week. The last sample cutsew from the Black Ribbon’s Halloween collection (screen printed by the people over at Nerdy Bit) went home with me, as did an ivory cutsew from Eat Me Ink Me. I also got a pair of black tights from the Haenuli/Mossbadger collab. Finally, I went home with one of the Black Ribbon’s mushroom skirts.
Photographer extraordinaire Sporkii also set up shop in the corner, taking professional coordinate pictures throughout the weekend. It was incredible to have someone who was not only a talented photographer, but a j-fashion fan who knew how important it was to have every ribbon tied and every bow in place. I cannot wait to see photos from the weekend!
Lastly, the weekend would not have been delight that it was without the tireless efforts of the BAK team. The BAK crew’s aggressive brand of friendliness included gentle (but loud) assurances that whatever item you were holding was adorable, and you should buy it, but also less flashy moments, like people running to grab tape measures from across the room to ensure that you were getting something that would fit you. From the travel guides put together by Obsixwi and Nycticevis for those coming from out of town, to the endless promotion of their participating indie brands, to the truly welcoming and friendly attitude of everyone working at the event, it’s clear that BAK is dedicated not just to putting on great events, but making sure that attendees feel at home in their community.