Vivi the maid, in a bright and bulky pink dress, prances through the aisles to a table filled with girls dressed in gothic Lolita.
He smiles as he places the menu displaying sugary treats and café drinks in front of the girls, one knee slightly bent.
Vivi brings the drinks, fashions his fingers into a heart and swings the shape around as he asks the girls to repeat after him. An upbeat J-Pop song plays as several other maids and butlers follow suit around the room.
Humber’s Café Berritea held its first Maid Café in the community room at Humber North on Feb. 25, serving 27 visitors from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Styled after a phenomenon of such cafes in Asia, this was the first event of its kind at Humber. The club, which had its budget approved only weeks ago, is unique in Toronto.
Maid Cafés are common in Japan. They are spaces of fantasy role-play for the maids and butlers as well as the customers.
“It’s part of their culture,” said member and first year Humber photography student Nigel Murray. “We’re bringing that sort of culture over to North America, and specifically Humber College to enlighten people on it.”
Essentially, participants dress up as maids and butlers and serve café items like hot drinks and baked goods to clients who come in for a sitting.
The maid costumes consist of short, bell-shaped dresses, in bright colours, with knee-high socks, and lots of bows. Each maid has a colour, a name and a personality.
The butlers also create characters. They wear dark pants with distinct vests and bowties. Each holds a cloth draped over their right arm. The colour of each cloth and bowtie matches one of the maid’s dresses.
“You take the maid outfit but you want to build a character out of it so you bring in accessories,” said club member Emma Kuhn.
Kuhn is a student at the University of Toronto and travels to Humber for the weekly meetings, as it’s her only opportunity to participate in a Maid Café.
“This isn’t something that is widely known about even in Canada,” said founder Virgil Makarewicz, whose maid name is Vivi. “A lot of people in the anime and cosplay communities know about it, but no one has actually taken the initiative to start one up on their own.”
The cafés only pop up during small events, if at all, and no other organization in Toronto is consistently and strictly committed to putting them on, said Makarewicz, a second year Humber visual and digital arts student.
Before the tables were served, the maids and butlers lined up in front of the crowd and introduced their characters one by one.
Two servings of dessert were broken up by a dance performance by two of the maids. The choreography was taken from a song called Toluthin Antenna by Japanese artist Kagamine Len. It is common for J-Pop singers to create a dance that accompanies their songs.
All eight tables were at least partly filled with students who got to enjoy the intimate service and the treats.
But the intimacy has a limit.
The relationship the maid has with her customers is supposed to be one of mutual respect.
Despite this, Maid Cafés are known for posting rules about how to interact with the maids.
“If anyone has actually been to Maid Cafés before, they know the do’s and the don’ts,” said Makarewicz. “They are to not touch any of the maids without their consent, as well as not to ask any of their personal information.
“If any of that actually happened, we have key words to signify that that has happened.”
“Safety and enjoyment are really important to the whole concept,” said Kuhn. “There’s a lot of respect for gender expression and positivity.”
These concerns were unfounded, however, for the club’s first gathering. The next event is planned for the end of the school year.
CORRECTION: The original version of this post commonly referred to Virgil Makarewicz as a “she”. Virgil is male and we have corrected our online article accordingly. We apologize for the error.