Monthly Archives: April 2008

Event: Grand Trianon

Grand Trianon
Tonight was an event touted as a girl-exclusive, Marie Antoinette-themed party, Grand Trianon. While not specifically a lolita event, it certainly had lolita potential. I received an online invitation to this event from one of the staff last week as a result of my being a member of the Nagoya lolita community on mixi (a Japanese networking site not unlike Facebook).
The website mentioned several cute items of interest: tea time, performances, and a “meeting system” that was divided into two categories– you could send message cards to other attendees and the color of the card you sent suggested your intent (blue for “friendship” and pink for “interest”, and keep in mind this is a girl-only event).

Anyway, the theme was flowers and if you had flowers as part of your outfit, you got 500 yen off the entry. Flowers aren’t exactly the hardest thing to work into a lolita outfit so of course that wasn’t a problem!
el dorado
I couldn’t resist wearing my new jsk, but I wore a flower corsage so it was ok!

Despite all the promises of being cute and unique though, it unfortunately wasn’t. Neither of the two themes (or gimmicks) were held to– the Rococo inspiration was tossed in favour of a normal club atmosphere and the girl-only idea was traded… well, for boys, lots of them. Not that I don’t like boys, I just think that if you make rules you shouldn’t go changing them at the end.
I think MOST of the attendees were pretty confused though, actually, and it was a pretty awkward situation. The event was hosted by… um, hosts. Or hostesses, if you will, as they are crossdressing girls (they are SO cute though, I really want to go to their cafe now!), and they were very active and friendly– one even forced me to dance, which was pitiful T_T. Outside of the gogo dancers (whose outfits were ridiculously adorable to make up for the fact that they weren’t such great dancers) and hosts though, most people were like me– too shy to do anything. There were some really adorable people though, so they were fun: the shy crossdresser that was a salaryman by day, the guy with the metal light-up suit. Entertaining at least.

About halfway through, after the “tea time” that involved no tea (but a lot of alcohol, if just around my table), we saw a few acts. The first was a creepy stop-motion animation video with dolls, which was weird (I hate stop-motion animation), but the dolls were cool and were handmade by one of the night’s attendees. A dancer performed and was quite good. After that I was forced to dance again, we sat through a HORRIFIC performance of an American song that I can’t remember (thank god) and another dance, and then decided to call it a night before we risked missing the last subway. Another performance was starting then but I really was about to fall asleep so I guess it was time to go.

All in all, it wasn’t a BAD event, just not what it should have been. I think if they had stayed with their themes, it would have been more fun, or if they’d abandoned the themes altogether it would have been more coherent. Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone was really sure what the main idea was, so it was kind of a waste of a good idea. Hopefully they’ll get more organized as they go. This was just the first time, after all 🙂


Ask not what you can do for your brand (3)

In this part I’m going to talk about fukubukuro (福袋), widely known as “lucky packs” in the Western world. Like novelty fairs and sales, fukubukuro sales occur for several occasions, and also like fairs and sales, they can depend on the specific shop or be nationwide.
Some brands release “special sets” along with their “lucky packs”– these aren’t really fukubukuro because you know the contents and the value of said contents before purchasing. Regardless, most people think of special sets as being a kind of lucky pack– maybe because they come in big bags too? I don’t know.

Fukubukuro from lolita brands are usually available for the basic prices of 5,000 yen or 10,000 yen, plus tax, and of course content varies by price. Some brands will release cheaper accessory packs. Kera shops carry fukubukuro from a number of brands usually, from Suppurate System to Marble, depending on the brands that particular store stocks.

Of course the most famous time for fukubukuro is New Year’s day (or the days just after, if the store is closed on New Year’s. Just about every store in Japan is having a huge sale (many with fukubukuro) on this same day, so you usually have to choose which brand you want and forsake all the others. Because the Lolita brands release such limited numbers of fukubukuro, it’s unlikely that you’ll get one if you don’t line up early. Because the winter sales are a widespread event, fashion magazines usually devote at least the news section of their December/January issues to listing special events by stores, including specific lists of what day (and time) fukubukuro will be released, so the smart shopper can plan well in advance.
The second most popular time for fukubukuro is in mid-summer, along with the summer sales. It’s less likely that special sets will be released at this time, or that special fukubukuro-only items will be produced, so the packs are likely to be full of a selection of items from the previous season.

It’s important to note about fukubukuro that, while the contents are (usually) worth significantly more than the price of the bag, these contents are also often items that didn’t sell particularly well in the last season, hence the availability of these items to be sold so cheaply. One should be wary of lucky packs released immediately after long sales periods because the contents are almost assuredly things that didn’t sale in spite of ever-lower prices. The value of the pack is usually posted somewhere (in a magazine, or sometimes right on the pack) but this does not reflect the “sale” value, of course. You might have saved money had you bought the items on sale instead of getting a fukubukuro!
Along with this consideration, of course the buyer has to understand that the contents of the pack are random, though most brands attempt to put together a coordinate or at least a similar color, and there is no guarantee that the things are going to fit or be flattering if they do. You would *think* that putting things that fit a wide range of sizes into the bags would be the natural choice, but as I have known people who got something as specifically sized as shoes in a pack, that’s not the case. Buyer beware 🙂

Along with other promotions, brands will sometimes have fukubukuro to celebrate other occasions, and these are usually advertised only in blogs or on the brand’s website– less likely in magazines. For this reason it’s important to keep your eyes open!

Angelic Ugly

(Or, Why are the AP Girls so MEAN?)

In Japan, as everyone knows, customer service is incredibly important and is rarely taken lightly. Because there’s really *not* that much competition as far as price undercutting is concerned, and also because of the importance placed on politeness in this society, you can expect to be treated like a queen when you walk into a Prada boutique– or into a McDonald’s. There are exceptions to every rule though, of course, and unfortunately, Angelic Pretty is a rather infamous exception to the rule of… well, good manners.

Evil Pink
At first, shortly after I moved to Nagoya and started shopping at AP, I was treated quite well. There was one particular girl on staff who always greeted me (it’s pretty common for certain staff members to attach themselves to specific customers, and vice versa). Shortly thereafter, though, that girl disappeared, and staff interaction became worse and worse. I thought it was just me, or just foreigners; perhaps they were afraid we wouldn’t understand Japanese, or perhaps in their xenophobia they believed we didn’t know anything about lolita or Angelic Pretty as a brand. I appeared in their store several times in head-to-toe AP and was continually snubbed. Perhaps they were racist.
All of my non-Japanese lolita friends reported similar stories. We had trouble getting staff attention when we needed help, we were not welcomed upon walking into the store. One of my friends with a good understanding of Japanese overheard the shopgirls making fun of her while she was shopping. I personally have been told– TWICE– that I couldn’t reserve certain special items because they had already sold out in reservation, only to find out later that it was totally untrue.

I stuck with this notion of possible racism until meeting a new Lolita friend– this one an adorable Japanese girl, born and bred, the perfect size for Lolita clothing. When she told me that she was also treated rudely, I started to wonder who, exactly, they WERE nice to.

I can’t begin to explain this phenomenon, though. Some have suggested that it may be due to the large “gyaru” (or “gal”) clientèle that AP (almost exclusively among the brands) serves. Gyaru are widely perceived to be snobbish and rude, so at first glance, that might be a logical explanation. I don’t think that’s really the case, though. Regardless of how gyaru behave on the streets, even in actual gyaru shops, such as Liz Lisa and the notorious La Pafait, a customer can expect to be treated with an overabundance of generosity– even if it’s obviously an act, it’s still present. After all, even if the customer doesn’t LOOK like they would wear/fit/be suited to your clothing, doesn’t mean you can’t make money off them. So it’s not the gyaru issue.

Angelic Pretty’s popularity has skyrocketed as the forerunner for the ever more excessive sweet lolita style. Aside from raking in the cash on all of their sure-to-sell-out prints, these very limited pieces have given the brand a sort of prestige that might have resulted in this snobby attitude.
Or maybe they’re just bitches. Who knows?

Anyway, don’t let that stop you from visiting AP, really. Many people on vacation, only visiting the store once, report only good things about the brand, so it’s possible that problems would only arise after multiple trips to the same store. Personally, though, I’m quite sick of it, and haven’t bought anything from their boutique for myself in quite a while as a result.
But then I’ll admit, that’s also in part due to the fact that they’ve either not had anything I want, or they have but not in the color/price range I want it in….
I might be carrying this soon:
boston bag

Ask not what you can do for your brand… (redux)

One of my favourite things would have to be novelty fairs. I love novelty items and limited edition goods!

Novelty fairs happen with a fair amount of frequency, and can be nation-wide or limited to only specific stores. Fairs are often timed to go with anniversaries or other store-based events, as well as national holidays/vacation periods, as well as the changing of seasons.
Usually novelties are really limited so to get one you have to get to the store quick! Also, there are set amounts of money one must spend in order to get the novelties; in big novelty fairs, the more you spend, the “bigger” the gift you receive– soon Baby will start a fair wherein you can get a cute pen for spending more than 10,000 yen, or a tote bag for spending more than 25,000.
Novelty items can be anything you can imagine really– from dishes to clothing to jewelry and so forth. Novelty items usually can’t be purchased otherwise so it’s really fun to have them.
Angelic Pretty novelty towel:
Metamorphose pouches:

Generally you can’t get multiple novelty items, but the Meta shop staff are awesome and let me because I spent the proper amount on two separate occasions.

Along with novelty fairs, brands will sometimes release limited edition items. These are usually for special events and are often limited to individual stores. I tend to think of “special sets” like the ones Meta and AP release around New Year’s as this kind of item, rather than “lucky packs” as most people consider them.
For example, I was lucky enough to get a limited edition color of a cutsew by Baby, which was released to celebrate a “t-shirt fair” by the mall they’re located in. Most brands in the mall released special shirts just for that week.

This part’s getting long, so I’ll end it here ^^

Ask not what you can do for your brand… (part 1)

A lot of people ask questions about sales/lucky packs, etc, so I thought I would try to explain some of it here 🙂

Lolita brands are infamous for being stingy with sales (though not as bad as major designer labels like Coach or Burberry, not even mentioning LV), generally having only two major sales per year: a New Year sale, and a mid-summer sale, both of which are for clearing out the previous season’s styles. All major stores in Japan have these sales, but to varying degrees. For the Lolita brands, discounts generally range from 20% off to 80% off, though of course the deeper discounts are applied later in the sale.

Some brands have a very short time in which these sales take place, maybe a week or two. Metamorphose’s sales seem to last forever (in fact, I think there are STILL some things on sale at the shop in Nagoya, a quarter of a year later…), but their prices don’t change dramatically once the sale has begun. Angelic Pretty and Baby, the Stars Shine Bright tend to allow their sales to run a month or so, and by the end of the sales you can get things for some ridiculously low prices.
example: I got my coat from AP for under 10,000 yen.
AP coat
In these cases, its about luck… and perseverance! Sales periods often coincide with vacation periods so the bored and/or diligent brandslave can spend a lot of time visiting the stores repeatedly, waiting for prices to drop.
And while that may sound odd– as if the prices are going to change throughout the day– it’s true! Shops will often have an “exciting” hour or something, wherein discounts jump by 10% (so something that’s 50% off is now 60% off). Sometimes these are advertised in the blogs, and sometimes just on a little notice somewhere in the store.

Aside from the major sales that everyone knows about, there are also smaller sales throughout the year. “B” sales and “sample” sales are for when a brand wants to get rid of any damaged, defective, or “used” (as in, used for displays or in photoshoots) merchandise. Generally the so-called damage is so tiny you wouldn’t notice it anyway, like a tiny dot of discoloration on the underside of a collar; also, sometimes the brands just have an extra piece from an old collection that they want to get rid of. Regardless of this, the prices are almost always marked down at least 30%, usually closer to 50% or 60% off.
B sales are usually announced in advance on the brand’s website as well as on blogs, and the duration of the sale varies greatly. In my experience, Angelic Pretty B sales last only one weekend, so if you miss it, you’re out of luck.

Other sales throughout the year occur for various reasons– for example, for that particular shop’s anniversary. Other reasons are not as… expected. My region’s baseball team is exceptionally good, and last year they won the championship. As a result, Baby, the Stars Shine Bright had a 15%-off sale for most of their merchandise… plus all the bunny-bear bags were wearing little baseball caps, and that alone was worth going to see xD

Whew! So that’s all I can think of to say about sales. If you have any questions, feel free to ask 🙂
I’ll continue to talk about lucky packs and other incentives (novelties, point cards) later.

Welcome :)

I wanted something a little more public than livejournal– and also a little less connected to my daily life– to ramble on about my thoughts and experiences related to lolita and Japan. And thus this blog was born! Hopefully it’s not a waste of space… Anyway. Welcome!