The Chanel of lolita fashion since 198806 December, 2011 by Chad
As a culturally rich nation that has brought us some of the most intriguing arts, culinary and technological innovations, over the years Japan has had plenty of other cultural exports that have had to take a backseat in recent years to more penetrable media creations. This side of Asia, fashion often takes on a secondary importance to practicality but I’m going to take a chance anyway and make it a point to take some time to write about another matter of interest, Japanese fashion.
To ease viewers in, many of the following articles will reference other pop-culture topics that you should be more familiar with. This first one skims on lolita fashion, something that has lent itself well into otaku culture, especially in the West. And when mentioning lolita fashion, the first brand that comes to mind would be the illustrious Baby, The Stars Shine Bright.
Lolita fashion was really ロリータファッション a wasei-eigo word made up in Japan to describe the emerging trend sweeping Harajuku back in the 80s. Enamored by the romantic nuances of the Victorian clothing, young Japanese women began adorning fashions inspired by the era.
Baby (as it is most often referred to) certainly wasn’t the first to introduce lolita fashion, but it did help to popularize the sweet lolita style. Compared to the rest, Baby’s clothing and accessories are frillier, they also tend to feature more pastel and light colors, making it popular among those prefer to portray a more lovelier image.
The sweet lolita style can be considered the final refinement of the first generation of lolita fashion and perhaps the principal style, it still retains many of the original Victorian influences that attracted the first enthusiasts. This might explain why Baby, The Stars Shine Bright enjoys a certain level of prestige among labels.
There’s also the rampart use (or placement) of Baby’s lolita fashion whenever there is a need in popular media. The brand got its big break overseas in the cult movie Shimotsuma Monogatari (Kamikaze Girls) in which Fukada Kyoko was seen spotting different Baby dresses through the entirety the movie. Also as a little tidbit for certain readers, Baby appears to be the brand of choice for at least a couple notable AKB48 members.
Thanks to their leading designs, Baby, The Stars Shine Bright also tends to be the brand of choice when it comes to other uses, such as in gravure shoots, at least when they can afford the dresses. The high quality of Baby dresses comes with a price. A single Baby dress will set you back somewhere between 40,000 to 50,000 yen (approximately SGD$750) and that is not including the compulsory accessories, coat and shoes to complete the look.
Expect to pay at least three times more to deck yourself from head to toe in Baby, The Stars Shine Bright clothing, as many lolita fashion lovers do, thus the allusion to Chanel and the fully decked out シャネラー (Chanelers). For this reason, lolita fashionistas aren’t always the youthful Harajuku teens that you would picture.
It’s no surprise that instead of Harajuku, the original Baby store operates out of Daikanyama, the most uptown part of Shibuya if only in a rather small basement there. Since then though, Baby, The Stars Shine bright have expanded to 28 stores spread throughout Japan, France and most recently, USA. The brand sees particular popularity in France, which boasts one of the most active otaku populations outside of Japan.
But to the rest of the world, lolita fashion is most often associated with ゴスロリ or gothic lolita fashion. This darker fusion of gothic and lolita styles emerged in the 90s and gained fans through visual-kei artists such as (or rather namely) Malice Mizer’s Mana who founded the brand Moi-meme-Moitie. Thanks to widespread media coverage in the following years, visual-kei and gothic lolita fashion gained much notoriety overseas.
In 2004, Baby, The Stars Shine Bright created Alice and the Pirates (A&P), a new sub-brand focused on pirated theme lolita dresses drawing some influence from the gothic and punk lolita styles. Operating from Harajuku, Alice and the Pirates is Baby’s attempt to invigorate their brand with the style’s younger audience, as suggested by the spinoff’s more competitive prices. To seal their popularity, A&P teamed up with up with Versailles Philharmonic Quintet and provided the popular visual-kei band their current look.
A&P features more graphic, contemporary designs as compared to its source, marketed as the new sub-genre of pirate lolita. Also unlike Baby, A&P features a “prince” line of clothing which is adapted to male wearers looking to complement their partners, or more often, female fans who prefer a more boyish look.
Baby still remains as popular as ever though. In the past couple of years though, the brand’s biggest advocate has been Aoki Misako, one of three (and the most active) “Cute Ambassadors” who were appointed by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Back in 2009.
Tasked with improving Japan’s image by promoting all things “kawaii”, the former lolita fashion model turn state sanctioned high priestess of cute has been traveling the world promoting the Japanese creation. Namely through Kawaii Girl Japan, a company set up for this purpose.
We’ve seen Kawaii Girl Japan launch last year and grow tremendously thanks to its high quality exclusive content and many idol endorsements. Here’s one of the videos with Aoki taking a look through one of the newer Baby, The Stars Shine Bright stores. The original store is comparatively a lot more humble.