Where do the Etsy elite, Instagram famous and designer-slash-artist-slash-makers come to show off their hard work? DesignerCon, of course. As eclectic as Comic-Con but without the crush of tickets, lines, event halls and cosplayers, DesignerCon—or “DCon”—is a fan-facing meeting ground for today’s entrepreneurial artist.
Originally founded in 2006 for the vinyl toy and collectibles market, DCon has grown into an inclusive artist and maker-centered event. Here, you can meet freshly graduated art students who passionately print their own pins and books on weekends, alongside well-travelled makers who have made boothing at cons and taking commissions their regular 9 to 5. And while DCon is consistently backboned by top tier collectibles and well-established toy outfits, the recent influx of illustrators to DCon has attracted legendary pop artists like Paul Frank to create large-scale, kid-friendly booths alongside the scrappy young artists.
With the holidays around the corner, it’s worth checking out some of the unique things at DesignerCon; here are some of our personal favorite artists and labels:
Big Bud Press is designed and made in Los Angeles, so support your local designers and check out their rainbow-centric apparel and accessories. They’ve got some really offbeat and crazy pieces like purple jumpsuits and brightly patterned pants, as well as some quieter pieces that still offer a little kick.
Ko-re Ko-re is a U.K.-based distributor of Japanese collectibles, and they travel all the way to Pasadena to participate in DesignerCon. The toys range from cute to weird to sophisticated to—honestly—somewhat strange. There’s something for everyone though, and these toys tend to be better crafted and more detailed than your average store-bought oddity. Check out the 35 Mechatro WeGo DX in orange; you can even dress him up.
If you’re a fan of Disney, then you’ve probably heard of Joey Chou, or at least seen his art at the Disney Wonderground gallery. His playful illustrations and colorful children’s books are pretty much the most adorable thing at DesignerCon, so if you’re not into the urban and underground thing, check out his booth. While Joey is a an established artist, be on the lookout for up-and-coming illustrators, too; they’re probably working for your favorite Disney or Nickelodeon TV shows on the weekdays, and moonlighting on passion projects to showcase at DesignerCon.
It wouldn’t really be an art, collectibles and L.A.-centric list if Giant Robot wasn’t on it, would it? Known as “the birthplace of Asian Pop Culture products and Uglydolls,” the Sawtelle-based gallery offers a combination of cute gifts, stationary and pins, as well as one-of-a-kind collector’s items.
One of the more unique offerings of DesignerCon is the work Naoshi, who is making sand art (sunae in Japanese). The colorful prints, pins, T-shirts and totes all bear the designs from the original sand art pieces, which are also available for purchase, along with DIY kits if you are so inclined. The illustrations offer the same level of cute, but slightly more offbeat, so if you’ve got a sophisticated kid, this is the booth for you.
And finally, DesignerCon has their own Instagram account that posts merchandise and works-in-progess from all of their exhibitors, as well as information about booth locations. Give the account a scroll and check out the hustle of these artists and makers.