Category Archives: shopping

Aldila: Lolita Exhibition

parfaitOn October 5th I visited the 10th Lolita Exhibition by Aldila in Osaka.  Aldila also holds indies brand events in Tokyo and even in Nagoya occasionally (though I missed the only Nagoya one that has happened since I moved here). It was the perfect opportunity to “twin” with a friend of mine who has the same print by Baby, only in skirt form, so we took our Twin Foreigner Cuteness Attack to the masses. We were a bit late for the event, but when we got there it was still in full swing. There were a lot of really creatively dressed people in attendance as well as selling their wares– perhaps my favourite were the man in the monocle and tophat and the girl who was working an AP-style decololi outfit with her Meta biscuit print JSK.
Though the brands present covered the range from Gothic to Country and were all mixed together, and attendees were decked out in their finest Classic to their most cavity-inducing sweet, there was a sort of obvious divide between the different styles. The staff of gothic brands were a little wary of girls bedecked in ice cream, and likewise the tables selling charms with various foodstuffs attached seemed to not know what to say to the Victorian ladies among them. It was a divide I haven’t ever noticed before, and was kind of disconcerting– especially once my friend suggest that other lolitas might be “thinking of sweet lolitas as the himegyaru of lolita now”. Considering the tension between lolitas and gyaru, that is NOT a good thing!

Anyway. There were a lot of brands in attendance– somewhere around 40 are listed on Aldila’s website, and though I don’t think there were really that many when we arrived (I’m sure some left early), there were quite a few.  It was set up much in the same fashion as any small sales exhibition (maybe a lot of people can conjure up an image of the sales room at an anime convention), with each brand purchasing a table or two to display their wares.  Most of the sellers stocked accessories, quite a few had racks of clothing, and there was even some artwork for sale– all of it handmade.  You could really feel the sense of pride that most sellers had in their work, as well.

One of the standout brands in my mind were キラキラスタァ (KirakiraStar), who have a blog and webshop listed, though nothing is currently for sale there. At first glance they appeared to be peddling just the usual sweets jewelry, though I thought it was especially attractive because of the pearlized, colored creams they used for decorating. But when I picked up a piece and looked at it, I knew I was in love!
apple seeds
An apple-shaped macaron brooch– what more could any girl ever want? Especially when it comes complete with little gems for seeds. At 1200yen (~US12), it wasn’t a bad price, either.

headdress As for other purchases, I also picked up a new headdress from armeria maritima, who also make cute jumperskirts for affordable prices. Their site is located here, and there are a few items in the shop for you to peruse. For the prices (around 8000yen for a jsk on the site, though they were 500-1500 yen cheaper at the event), I would say that the quality is not bad. The katyusha I purchased is to the right. It’s simple, but it matches an IW dress I have really well, so I can’t wait to wear it (I hate to admit also that I’m starting to lean more and more toward smaller and more adult head accessories… no!!!), and for only 1000yen (~US10), a good deal. Also, the girl who was working the table was SO adorable and talkative– and her English was pretty good– I just had to support her brand!

Other brands worth mentioning were Chantilly, mentioned in a previous post. I love their use of so-huge-its-crazy rose lace! Unfortunately they didn’t have the JSK I’ve been pining for (actually, Chantilly was presented by Atelier Pierrot, and most of the actual clothing on display was by the latter; Chantilly was providing their usual assortment of amazing bonnets and headwear, plus a few darling blouses). Lyra’s Cute Tone was there to provide options for adorable false nails (Oh how I would love to try those!!). YUki provided cute, ETC-style cutsews, which unfortunately had ETC-style prices as well.
butterflyQuiet Darkness featured gothic and aristocrat style jewelry and small items, like the butterfly corsages on the left. Their headdresses are also to die for, but are also as expensive as established brand prices (in my opinion, though, they are quite worth it– if you’re a gothic lolita, which I’m not!).

One disappointment of the event was that my friend and I found the ultimate in ridiculous lolita accessories– cupcake scepters! And for only 800yen, of course we wanted them. Actually, the entire table they were at was stocked with cheap but adorable sweet-deco goods. Why was this disappointing? Because the entire time we were there, there was never a single person working at the table to sell us anything! How annoying. That scepter will haunt my dreams. Or maybe I’ll just email them and see if they can ship them… Anyway, the brand was Barahime, and you can see the scepters in question on their blog.

Anyway! I have rambled on long enough. The event was fun, if brief for me, and it was great to see some of the up-and-comers in the lolita world. I’m a fan of indies brands, and I think we should all support the good ones. All of the major brands in lolita fashion today started as small independant labels, and with the support of fans have managed to keep going. Good luck, little brands!

Bodyline takes center stage

Recently the much maligned Bodyline has become more and more popular among tried-and-true lolitas, for more than just petticoats and bloomers. In the past the brand was a laughingstock, the name considered synonymous with cheap lace and costume-like designs.

bodylineA recent major sale by the brand, however, led some people to give them another try– present party included. I personally purchased several items from Bodyline during the 50% off sale and was quite pleased with the quality for the price. For example, I got the skirt pictured here for only 1500yen (~$15US). It’s not the best-made thing I own, but it’s quite worth 1500 yen!
I also purchased a jumperskirt and was was happy to find that it was trimmed with soft cotton lace, and had no apparent major flaws.

However, one has to wonder about Bodyline– is it such a good thing? I don’t think there’s anything wrong with getting cute products for cheap, especially for beginner lolitas or old hands who would like to add some pieces for lounging around in. However, Bodyline has a history of ripping off other brands, sometimes more blatantly than others. Take, for example, these recent additions to Bodylines rakuten shop:
bodyline
The print on the skirt is an obvious reproduction of Angelic Pretty’s extremely popular “Fruit Parlor” (sometimes incorrectly translated as “Fruits Parlor”) series, which is pictured below.
AP

I am surprised by the reaction to these new items– at least, by the Western community. I’ve seen a lot of Japanese threads full of outrage, but most of the non-Japanese lolitas seem to find it an acceptable, cheap alternative to the original brands. I suppose this might be due to the fact that, with all fees and shipping included, buying brand from overseas is not only time-consuming and difficult, it is also significantly more expensive. Also, purchasing fake items– such as Secret Shop shoes (AP is certainly a frequent target for this sort of thing– is a common, well-known, and accepted fact within the Western lolita community.
In my opinion, I think people should only buy the knockoffs if they like the design of the knockoff, not because it looks like a brand item. If you want something that looks like Angelic Pretty’s Fruit Parlor, you should buy Angelic Pretty’s Fruit Parlor. If you think that this is a cute skirt, you should buy it for that reason, but not try to pass it off as the real deal.

These are pretty obvious fakes though; I have to wonder how people are going to feel while wearing them. Living in Japan I think I would be self-conscious about running into someone wearing the real deal; but I think even in America I would feel awkward about it.
But then, the irony of that is the skirt that I ordered, pictured above, is actually an Atelier Pierrot knockoff. Perhaps I feel less awkward about it because it is less obvious? Or maybe because I couldn’t wear the original design due to size issues… More grey area!

For all the stories that Western lolitas spread about Bodyline in Japan (I once heard a laughable tale about “real” lolitas standing outside of a Bodyline shop and lynching anyone who came out with a purchase in hand, which at least is an hilarious mental image before you have to admit that it is ridiculous), I think it’s more a source of embarrassment than anything else. Often you see girls caught in a Kera! Snap wearing a piece of Bodyline in their outfit, but never once have I actually seen it listed in their brand list– the item is usually simply referred to as “from Harajuku” or “I forgot”. While brand events have been known to put a “no Bodyline” clause into the invitations for parties with strict dress codes, I don’t think they’d go so far as to lynch anyone over it, either. Japan is too non-confrontational, as a whole, for people to actually be attacked for something like that; though they’ll probably be the stars of a malicious thread on an anonymous forum later on (kind of like the West, actually).

If anything, it just gives Bodyline more publicity. But if they are really trying to become a respectable brand, they need to carefully consider things like this. I think they may have seriously shot themselves in the foot; they’ll turn a quick profit on this, for sure, but they’ll loose some potential longterm customers in the process. …Well, maybe.
Personally, I can say that I lost what respect that I had gained for Bodyline– and I really HAD gained some, upon seeing the quality of the items I ordered. However, I still want to order some shoes from their site… even the most self-righteous lolita needs cheap shoes!

Fall 08

So after perusing the 30th volume of the Gothic & Lolita Bible, out today, I started thinking about the fall season from the brands.

metaPeople seem to always polarize their opinions about everything– they either really really love it or absolutely hate it. I’m feeling this especially with Metamorphose this season– almost every lolita I know feels strongly one way or the other. Honestly though, I’m neither extremely impressed nor disappointed (except with the raschel lace Swan Border pieces, which I have a deep distaste for). The school series is playing it safe, in particular.

Angelic Pretty, recently the constant center of attention, really delivered with the Fancy Melody series. I wish I’d acted quick enough to snag the black jumperskirt! I’m really regretting it now that the series is in stores. It’s amazingly cute. The Royal Poodle line is on reserve now, and the blue x silver socks and jumper sold out withing the first two days, so it’s definitely going to be a hit. I like it a lot. If the skirt would fit me I’d be all over it!

babyI was mostly excited about the GLB because I was hoping for better pictures of the Rococo Accessories print (ロココ小物柄). It didn’t really deliver on that, unfortunately. And all I can share with you is an even blurrier, tinier picture of the magazine article! That’s kind of sad…
Anyway though, the print appears to have all sorts of delightful things in it: parasols, fans, perfume bottles. It’s just adorable in my opinion. And I love the violet-ish color with bright accents. It really does scream Marie Antoinette! It’s so decadent.
candlesPersonally I’d like something a little more elegant/adult this season (maybe I’m starting to feel my age… noooooo!), and Baby’s “Rose Candle” onepiece is all of that and then some. I saw the skirt during a sample exhibition at Passe, and fell in love instantly, but Baby’s skirts have much too small of waists for me. This OP will probably turn out too small, as well, because Baby’s sizes rarely end up being what they initially guess for magazines. I think that it looks perfect in this coordination though. Perfect shoes, perfect hair, perfect everything!

Recently I’ve been drawn to brands I don’t pay much attention to; for example the indie brand Chantilly. I’ve seen their bonnets and a few other pieces at the Angelic Pretty here in Nagoya before, and they always seem impeccably made, but I never much noticed anything else about them. In this month’s Kera, which has some photos from the fashion show in France last month, I spotted a darling jsk that I’m just dying to have, black with big lace roses.
I also really really love this upcoming skirt/blouse combination from Mille Fleurs. It’s so ridiculous and over the top! If only it would fit me, I’d.. probably not be able to afford it anyway! Oh well. It’s lovely to look at.
It seems that their site hasn’t been updated in quite a while, though. I really wish some brands would stay on the ball. But I guess if you have a very small business, just keeping your blog updated might be enough. I’m not sure how… but maybe it is.
mille

As for coats, I think everyone is performing brilliantly there. Baby’s are perhaps a bit safe, AP’s appliqués are kooky as ever (though their normal coats and the trench coat currently in reserve are all fabulous), Victorian Maiden’s are to die for… but then, I’m a coat person.

At any rate, that’s my few cents on the Autumn releases from the brands… well, some of them! While it’s on my mind, I’m not too pleased with IW, either. I think they’ve been trying pretty desperately lately to do something ultra cute, but somehow they always seem to miss their mark. They should stick to making elegant and regal pieces, and leave the teddy bear prints to AP. You can’t really pull off stuffed animals in a print using dusty, mature colors, in my opinion.
I was also interested to note that this issue of the GLB is kind of lacking in the over-the-top deco goodness of recent times. Is the wearing-a-parfait trend finally dying out? I hope not… because that will mean I’m fashion-backward!

Ask not what you can do for your brand (4)

I didn’t realize that I had totally forgotten to talk about point cards! Which is funny, because they’re ever-present for a lolita shopper (or any shopper!) in Japan.

cards

Point cards are not only a way to earn incentives for spending money at a particular shop, they’re a sort of status symbol as well (they also have the unfortunate side effect of being a tangible gauge for how much you have spent on new merchandise). Generally you aren’t offered a point card until you have shopped at a particular brand several times, unless you buy a substantial amount the first time you go. I’ve never tried asking for a point card at a lolita brand shop, but I imagine they wouldn’t say no to you; I’ve asked in any number of other stores and been favourably received, though most places want you to get a point card the very first time you buy something.

You usually get one point per a specified amount of money spent at the store; for example, Angelic Pretty is 1 point per 3000 yen, and Baby is 1 point per 5250. Innocent World is the “most expensive”, so to speak, card that I have, with each point a steep 10,000 yen. The number of points required before you reach the goal also depends on the brand, usually between 15 and 20, sometimes as many as 30. The prize that you’re working toward is that the cards become coupons once they’re filled up– again, each brand is a little different, but for example AP’s cards are worth 3000 yen off of any amount, while Baby’s are worth 3000 off any purchase that costs more than 6000; Meta’s is a great deal: 5000 yen off any purchase plus a novelty item. In some cases, if you’re lucky enough to have a full or close-to-full card, brands will have novelty fairs wherein you can exchange your card for limited edition items instead of cash off.
Personally I think AP’s cards are the most customer-friendly– most brands give no credit for amounts that do not total up to a full point (several times I’ve been chagrined to discover that I am a few hundred yen short of another point at Baby), but AP simply writes the excess amount on the card and that’s added to your next visit’s total, so you never lose out. For once AP is on the customer’s side!

I also have to admit that point cards sometimes give me a bit of an elite feeling. My Baby card, for example, has a lovely number 4 written in a large block on the top of it, meaning that I’ve filled 3 full cards already. A card like that earns a little nicer treatment from the staff of any Baby shop when they see it. (Being a regular customer in Nagoya of course warrants a high level of customer care, but in stores where I’m not known, the little card says: I understand and love this style and am a loyal customer.)

Personally I think point cards are a great little benefit, especially for such an expensive fashion as lolita; but actually you can get point cards anywhere– from Tower Records to the discount cosmetics shops to the consignment shops! It’s fun to rack up points but for people like me, I tend to want to spend a little extra to make sure I always get the most points possible… it’s dangerous!

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:
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.