Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Gaijin's Conundrum

These past few weeks I've been having a total love-hate relationship with brand. I go from daydreaming about a closet full of Innocent World and BABY to slamming my wallet closed in disgust &vowing away from the expensive things multiple times a day. Why do we do it? Look at the sales community - there are girls (myself included) spending whole paychecks on clothing other people have sweated in. Hopefully they've been dry-cleaned or at least aired out, but who even knows? This is the gamble we take for brand, to look the way our souls feel (or maybe that's just me - is my hippie showing?).

But why? With so many talented seamstresses and stores in our own countries, why do we bother exporting overpriced dresses and skirts, saving up for weeks for a single item, when we could pay a fraction of the price for something that is beautiful, personal, and actually sized to Western bodies? Let's start it, ladies - the anti-brand revolution!

Maybe that's going a step too far. After all, the reason brand names are so expensive is because they're usually so ornate, delicate, and creative that we can't really find exact substitutes elsewhere. And that's great - there's no better feeling than putting on a dress you've been saving up for and looking at yourself in the mirror. That's why we do it. We like feeling that way. Whether they're just clothes or more of a lifestyle, you have to admit - you wouldn't wear these ridiculous, expensive things if you looked in the mirror &didn't feel awesome about what you saw looking back at you (Would you? I'd love to hear some opinions - being a lifestyle loli myself I can't really imagine what it's like not to be one).

But who says brand is the only way to feel like that? Okay, lots of people. However, I think that's because those people have never really seen what American designers (Or Australian, or Swedish, or Brazilian, or...) are really capable of. That's the gaijin's, or foreigner's, dilemma: Buy from Japan expensive things that may not even fit our body types, or do we buy from smaller Western brands without the big name &quality guarantee? I've seen both - on top of owning pieces by both American and Japanese brands, I've modeled for both BABY, the Stars Shine Bright and American lolita designers, and I can honestly say, I felt layers upon layers better in clothes by the latter. I felt so much more connected to the clothing knowing it that had been designed not to make money but specifically for the event I was modeling it in and feeling the soul of the seamstress who poured her heart into producing it. There's something to be said for mass-production, and I love Forever 21 as much as the next girl, but once you feel something so personal, it's hard to find a good Methadone to take its place.

There's also a very different style and look to American lolita brands. I think this is necessary - the things they're exposed to are so different from what affects Japanese lolita designers that anyone who tries to emulate what they do, in my opinion, doesn't have a very high chance of success. I see this especially in designers from New York City and other urban areas - exposed to such a harsh, concrete-and-steel landscape every day crafts citydwellers into unique people, and lolitas are no exception. The beauty that we obsess over seems to be almost rougher in NYC - maybe this is my country-mouse coming through, but it seems to me that there's just some sort of discernible edge that comes from Manhattanites that they bring to their coordinates that always takes me by surprise. How exactly that shows is dependant on the individual, and yes, I've seen plenty of girls in the city rocking cookie-cutter styles and making it look right off the pages of the GLB, but I think more often there's a certain je ne sais quois that permeates their attitudes and fashion sense. I've seen it in other places, too, but never as strongly. There's such an energy to people who frequent the Big Apple that I've never seen replicated. Maybe therein lies my deep adoration for the city - while every metropolis has its own unique story and energy, I've never encountered one as intoxicating as New York's.

But I digress. The point I've been trying to make is that lolita is not something that you need to pay customs for. There are some amazing designers in our own countries that need their economy stimulated, and we're just the people to do it. Here's a list of some of the American brands that I find most stimulating:

Any other suggestions, American lolitas? And for you non-American lolis, who are your favorite designers from your country?

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