Welcome to District 1, the First Cosplay Studio in the Philippines

When we first saw the neon-drenched announcement shots of District 1’s Arknights-themed room, we were impressed with how aesthetic it was. The price, P1800 per hour, was even more impressive to be honest. For reference, an entry-level photo studio with an utterly plain white backdrop can be rented for around P1400 for two hours.

District 1’s owner, veteran cosplayer Katiecakey, said she based her pricing on dedicated cosplay studios she’s visited in other Asian countries. “We based the fees overseas, it’s almost the same! While there are a lot more expensive studios out there (to use as a benchmark) I wanted this to be affordable for everyone,” shared Katie/Closure as we toured the home-based studio along with co-owner and in-house photog Aaron.

Owner Katiecakey as Arknight’s resident sari sari store operator.

How long have you been thinking about your own studio?

I’ve been thinking about it for a while actually. When we first did a photoshoot overseas we thought it would be nice to have something like that in the PH so we started saving up for it. We were actually supposed to open the studio at a commercial building (pre-COVID) but then a lot of things happened…

So cosplay studios are a thing overseas?

I went to Indonesia and I shot at two cosplay studios there and it was really good (special shoutout to Eternity Costudio!) They had the Japanese classroom and separate dressing rooms. Then I went to another and it was customizable, basically you tell them what you want and they’ll make it!

Most of the countries in Asia actually have cosplay studios: Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and in Malaysia there’s a lot.

Those displays can be changed to show anything by the way.

Are you actually the first to open in the Philippines? Can non-cosplayers shoot here? Like a weeb prenup?

If a studio made exclusively for cosplay, I think it’s the first. (For non-cosplay shoots) If the needs fit your theme you can use it. A t-shirt line wanted to shoot here, so yeah!

For most hobbyist cosplayers, studio rental is a considerable expense so they usually just guerrilla shoot outdoors. Did you go through that as well?

Yeah, I think everyone starts like that. And then when you grow as a cosplayer you realize it’s not enough, that’s when you need to set aside a budget for renting a studio.

The first time you went to rent a studio and saw the fees, what did you think?

When I found out how much a studio is, I was like okay, how many costumes can I fit in this amount of time, ha ha!

Then there are other studios with themes like Studio Namu but that’s like P14,000 for three or four hours!

We took some (bad) BTS photos for a sense of scale.

Production design is even more expensive, how much did you spend to create the rooms?

Around P100,000 for everything, but we had to budget very well-and we scoured Divisoria, the internet, crowdsourced. For example, the neon light tubes are P200-300 per meter in Quiapo. Then the legit tatami mats are P2000 per segment.

It “only” took us 10 days to build it all, but that was basically around the clock work!

Why the District 1 name by the way?

I didn’t want it to be a very professional name because it’s just a house (since commercial space plans fell through.) I also didn’t want myself to be exclusively a “studio” so I went to “space” then district! Then I added one because this is the first (I think) and in the future I can expand!

This is based in the more northern part of Quezon City though, what about poor south folk…

I was from the south! The thing is there’s not a lot we can do about it because the north is really busier? Like we would get more customers by opening in the north. It’s kind of harder to commute south as well.

Great things in small spaces!

Genshin Impact room when?

You know I thought about that! but i felt like it would be nicer to shoot GI outdoors.

 
The dressing room comes with a lot of prep essentials that are free to use.

Anything not allowed in terms of shoots?

Probably shoots that would damage any props. Like somebody asked about dropping candle wax, I was like “…no, sorry!” So no shoots that include fire or water. (Shoot nudes?) That’s okay! (Video?) Probably a different charge for that.

You also told me early on that this is a passion project for Philippine cosplay and not really about making money.

Yes, it may be hard to sustain. Honestly I don’t know when the money we spent can be returned? But I thought that I can use what I’ve built since cosplay is my livelihood!

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