If you've been to any of the costume gatherings that have sprouted across L.A. over the past few years, you've probably seen Sheyne Fleischer. She arrived at Labyrinth of Jareth last year in a hoop skirt made of PVC tubes. At Royal/T's Bats and Cats party, celebrating Hello Kitty's 35th birthday, she dressed as Kuromi, the goth frenemy of My Melody. Other times, you'll see her decked out in a mix of steampunk and Lolita garb.
"Back in the day, I was a Ren Faire geek, even before I came to Los Angeles and had this crazy costume culture, which is actually like a social culture," Fleischer says. "It wasn't until I moved to L.A. that I met so many other people with such active interests, who were willing to put in the time, effort and money to really go out there and dress to impress and have fun with it."
What makes Fleischer stand out from the throngs of Angelenos who have come to embrace a nightlife filled with theme dress codes is her enthusiasm. She's the person who, within a few minutes of meeting, will give you a rundown of every whimsical event coming up in the following weeks. She might also give you a heads-up on an amazing Japanese jewelry designer whose name you have never heard before, or mention a Web site that will become a must-read.
Fleischer grew up in Northern California, where, in her youth, she was "pretty much ostracized completely for being a musical-theater, comic book, Ren Faire, Star Trek geek."
By college, she was traveling to anime conventions, organizing all-night marathons of shows like Serial Experiments Lain at Cal State Monterey Bay and becoming enamored of Japanese rock bands like Malice Mizer and a corresponding fashion culture called Gothic Lolita.
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"Almost everyone I know now is somehow connected through somebody I met at a convention or at a Lolita meet-up," Fleischer says.
After moving to Los Angeles in 2004, she began organizing her own meet-ups for followers of the ruffled, girlish Lolita style and, later, the sci-fi-Victorian-style steampunk. There were gatherings at wine bars, picnics at the Getty Center (which she describes as "a great holdout for the zombie apocalypse"), cherry blossom viewings at Lake Balboa and trips to the La Brea Tar Pits. Last fall, she worked on an Alice in Wonderland–themed tea at the annual Asian-pop-culture convention Pacific Media Expo as a set designer, "creating an immersive theatrical environment" for fans of Lolita clothing brand Angelic Pretty.
"I love doing unexpected things," says Fleischer, part of the generation whose social whirl begins online. She's a self-proclaimed "dork for LiveJournal," who relies on the blogging network to stay in the loop on her favorite below-the-radar youth cultures.
"I'm not saying we see stuff before it happens, but you have your ear to the weirdness, and you end up finding the more abstract movements before the mainstream does."