My love affair with Kandi began six years ago at Digital Dreams 2014 in Toronto, Ontario. I was about to attend my very first music festival and rave, and I was extremely nervous. Names like Justice, Armin Van Buuren, Green Velvet, and Nervo were all gracing the stages, which meant nothing to me then, but mean everything to me now. Before I set off on my journey, I had done what I thought was necessary research by Googling ‘rave fashion’ and had settled on wearing a black crop top, a pair of heart-shaped hoop earrings, and hot pink booty shorts. I thought I was as ready as I could be until I noticed the beaded bracelet on my then-partners wrist.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Oh, this? This is a piece of Kandi” my partner remarked. He then dug through his drawers and pulled out a green, yellow, and blue bracelet that read “FACED.”
“Here. I got this one at Ultra Miami last year. Not really my thing, but you’ll probably like it.”
Turns out, “you’ll probably like it” would become the understatement of the last half-decade for me. Every aspect of Kandi, from creating it to trading it, has become a huge part of my raving lifestyle. Every festival season, I clip coupons, raid the local craft stores for pony beads and string, then sit down in front of the TV and spend hours making bracelets (a process I’ve jokingly referred to as “millennial knitting”). I’ve gone from making single strand pieces to designing my own custom masks and cuffs, bearing all kinds of pictures from hearts and snowflakes to butterflies and bio-hazard symbols. I have gallon-ziplock bags full of bracelets from five years of raves and festivals, and while some of them are organized by the event I got them at, most are jumbled together in a heap of colors.
It’s not just the arts and crafts aspect of Kandi that appeals to me (although that is a big part of it). What I love the most about Kandi is what it represents. Kandi has existed through the early days of warehouse raves into the present day of mega-festivals, remaining a consistent symbol of connection, friendship and pure joy within the rave scene. Even down to the actual exchange of Kandi, where people mirror each other’s hands in creating peace signs, a heart, then pressing their palms and clasping their hands to pass over bracelets, while declaring “Peace, Love, Unity, Respect,” truly represents the best parts of rave culture to me.
In the end, it’s all about connection. Kandi has made me open up to the world in a way I never would’ve imagined. I was an occasionally awkward kid and teenager and never felt like I fit in. But from the moment I received my first piece, a glittery green bracelet with a bird charm that said “Night Owl” that I still wear to this day, I felt like I belonged to something bigger than myself. Knowing I can make a bracelet, that will become a memory for someone and possibly travel around the world, makes me feel united with people that share my ideology that a little PLUR can make a difference.
I’ve hurled bracelets at DJ’s and felt my heart explode when I watched them put them on and wave to me. I’ve watched fellow Kandi-Kids light up when I traded them a handmade cuff I spent hours working on. I’ve received DMs from people I hardly see of the Kandi I gave them, telling me they’re thinking of me. And I’ve beamed with pride when people complimented me on my masks or cuffs. It’s a small community, but it’s a strong and beautiful one, and I am so proud to be a part of it.
*Featured Image Via Spacekitt3n*