I run a group called the ‘Tea Party Club’ in the UK, which is the biggest and longest running UK lolita group. It was established in September 2007 and we try and arrange as exciting as events for UK lolitas as we can. We hosted a tea party for Misako Aoki, had the UK’s biggest meet of 114 lolitas at the V&A museum and appeared in Japanese broadsheet The Asahi Shimbun as a result. We hold big tea parties every September for our ‘anniversary’ and this year having turned the grand old age of 5 I wanted to do something a bit special.
I got in contact with Juliette et Justine around April or May last year and informed them that there was a big group of lolitas in the UK, and many of them were fans of JetJ. I sent pictures of the V&A meet and said that we’d love to host them at a party in the UK, and that we can pay for the accommodation and flights for 2 people.
After a few weeks I got a reply saying that the founder and head designer Mari Nakamura would love to visit us and is trying to clear her schedule. I held on to that news in private until it was finally confirmed and then announced the news.
Later I was told by JetJ that Nakamura wanted to bring her friend Mariko Suzuki, editor of The Gothic and Lolita Bible - hell yeah, yes please! By the event we had Nakamura, Suzuki, Koitsukihime – renowned doll artist and designer of BtSSB’s Seraphim (stained glass) print – and Akira Tanaka, a stylist and makeup artist (www.tonytanaka.com)
Suzuki sent me two boxes of GLBs to sell at the event and donated a ton of prizes: http://teapartyclub.co.uk/2012/08/20/bu
Akira donated three massive makeup sets, Nakamura also hand-sewed some headbows, and donated catalogue sets and both Nakamura and Suzuki signed a postcard for each guest.
Additionally the TPC collaborated in creating three competitions that were open worldwide. One was a design contest where one winner would see their design made by JetJ, another was a GLB illustration competition which would see the winner displayed in the next issue, and the third was an outfit competition by the TPC where we donated a full JetJ outfit (skirt, camisole, bolero). go_slow_ly joked that it was like Oprah and we’d soon hear about cars for every attendee.
The whole event was created and organised by myself, sakurasheff, Jennifer, ruffandtumble and go_slow_ly although unfortunately she could only help from Japan.
Myself and Michaela
We created a two day event, the first being the main event which cost £30 a ticket or £40 for a limited VIP ticket. The VIP ticket gained early entry for shopping time, preferential seating at the fashion show and a goodie bag containing a special tote bag made just for the event, a special JetJ/TPC brooch, an accessory (bow clip, pair of wristcuffs or kanzashi flower by Stocking Shock, a packet of Japanese sweets and a copy of NEO magazine. We sold out to max capacity of 180 tickets!
We held the event at the 4 star Charing Cross hotel where our guests were staying and had three rooms, one where Juliette et Justine were selling clothes, as well as a bar, stalls from PinCandy, Sweet Sultana, Roxie Sweetheart and a ‘lolita collective’ where people could sell their creations in return for their time manning the stall. The second room was the main one, a grand round room where chairs were arranged around a semi circle to begin with, facing a raised stage.
VIP’s arrived at 11am with general admission ticket holders getting in 45 minutes later. Most people picked up their goodie bags and went shopping first!
(Video thanks to Marie Elendir)
Around 12.30 was our first event, first a welcome by myself and sakurasheff, and a small raffle. Being a loli party, we picked two glamorous male assistants from the audience!
After the raffle, our Japanese guests stepped out and we did a Q&A.
Mariko Suzuki, editor of the GLB (left) and Mari Nakamura, head designer and founder of Juliette et Justine (right)
Firstly I asked where all our ticket holders were from. The UK, Ireland, France, Germany Austria, America, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Spain, Denmark, Latvia (I can’t hear the rest, sorry!) Akira and Mari piped up that they were from Japan XD
Then, introductions and questions from the audience
Q: I’ve just started my own lolita brand and I wondered how hard it was to start as a small brand and work your way up?
Nakamura: Actually it wasn’t very hard! I wish you the best of luck.
Q: Mari Nakamura, is it correct that you started at Victorian Maiden?
Nakamura: Yes, that’s correct
Q: What inspired you to go and start your own brand?
Nakamura: I had a fight with someone there!
Q: Is there a period of history that inspired you more than the others?
Nakamura: 16th – 17th Century
Q: Koitsukihime have you always liked dolls or is that something that came later in life?
Koitsukihime: I’ve been making dolls for 30 years
Q: Koitsukihime, you collaborated with Baby the Stars Shine Bright. Have you got any plans for any other lolita collaborations?
A: I’m thinking about it. They hope it will be a JetJ collaboration.
Q: This is a question to all four of you – which is your favourite lolita style and why?
Suzuki: I see charm in all of them
Akira: As a makeup artist I like doing makeup for sweet lolita the best
Koitsukihime: I like gothic lolita the best
Q: Akira Tanaka – what inspires you?
Tanaka: I look at each model and see what suits them
Q: Suzuki, apart from JetJ, what’s your favourite lolita brand?
Suzuki: I can’t choose, I like them all.
Nakamura and Koitsukihime
taking the microphone around
Q: Question for everyone, what is your style in everyday life?
Nakamura: Mainly I wear JetJ clothes
Suzuki: Victorian style blouses and one piece dresses
Tanaka: A suit that is easy to move around in
Koitsukihime: When I make dolls I have to wear normal clothes or white clothes (overalls?). When I’m out I wear gothic style clothing
Q: Nakamura how do you pick an artwork for a print?
Nakamura: I normally pick an artwork depending on the inspiration I have, I’ve never had a problem picking artwork
Q: How did you come up with the name ‘Juliette et Justine’?
Nakamura: It’s from a novel from Marquis du Sade
Q: I wrote my thesis on the GLB and the rules and culture, now there are 45 issues and there are still many rules in there, how important are the rules for lolitas?
Suzuki: I personally feel that you can make up your own rules
Q: Koitsukihime I’ve noticed with your dolls some are very happy but some look more tortured. I was curious what the thought process was between these these two very different moods you put into them and what their personality might be?
Koitsukihime: I get this question quite often. My dolls are not a plaything or something you would give to a child so therefore she thinks these dolls should express the soul more so she has put on them an expression that would evoke an emotion from the person looking at them so she thought it would be better if they were less happy.
Q: Nakamura what inspired you to use paintings as part of your designs to begin with?
A: Clothing is the number one thing to cover your soul so she feels that if you have a masterpiece around your body that is something which will help you become more beautiful and elegant.
Q: I have a question for everyone, how often do you have the opportunity to use original Victoriana or Edwardian clothes?
Nakamura: I do use vintage things in my shoots, however, because my clothes use modern tailoring I only uses a little bit so it doesn’t clash too much, if I use too much sometimes it does clash.
Q: Is someone ever too old to wear lolita?
Nakamura: Yes, probably! But actually I like to think that my brand is for older people and I want people to wear it for a longer time, and afterall romance and elegance are the main points of lolita, aren’t they? I think there’s no problem gaining years, that is fine, my designs are made with people who are older in mind.
Q: Suzuki, what is your favourite part of the GLB?
Suzuki, it is my job to put everything together, the whole product in itself is what she likes the best.
Q: What’s your opinion on how lolita has spread to the western community and do you think it’s important to note that we have different features when styling?
Suzuki: I was very shocked when I found out that there were lolitas outside of Japan seven years ago. I didn’t realise there were lolitas outside of Japan and I was extremely happy that people were picking up this fashion trend. Actually lolita is a fashion trend where Japanese people pretend to be western therefore actually I think that everyone who is not Japanese is far more authentic to the style they were trying to get
Tanaka: The main thing I think that I’m asked is to make girls look very doll like, so I think if you aim to look very doll like, that’s probably the best way to do makeup.
Nakamura: 40% of my customers are from overseas so I think that it’s fine/very good.
Koitsukihime: The inspiration for my dolls is often from old western artwork so when I see everyone looking very beautiful I’m actually very envious of that.
Q: Lolita is now an international phenomenon and as an [South] Asian lolita I sometimes feel it would be nice to see models of different ethnicities but there seems to be a lot of very fair skinned lolitas featured in websites and magazines, and also with dolls. Would you be interested in appealing more to the international market by having different skin coloured models and dolls?
(Answer cut out but Nakamura said she’d like to but the models from the agencies in Japan are mostly white or Japanese. If she could find someone suitable she would use them)
our audience, watching the Q&A
Pat Lyttle, one of our photographers. Pat is a long-term friend of the UK lolita community and even has his own photo book. You should buy it!
As the rest wasn’t recorded by the girl videoing, I’ve copied the rest of the transcript from Rokkyuu - please check them out!
Could you describe in one phrase what lolita fashion really means to you?
Nakamura Mari: Work!
Suzuki Mariko: To me it is destiny.
Akira: As a man it is something about politeness and something very soothing to look at.
So Juliette et Justine may be a bit of an exception given that 40% of the customer base is western, but I would like to know generally how Japanese perceive the western market and whether there is going to be any movement towards expanding in the west?
Nakamura Mari: I do not know for sure about other brands but seeing Japan Expo where a number of brands do attend there and so there may be some movement to expand.
Nakamura Mari, this is something that has been asked a lot on your webpage as we are are very different sizes. Would you consider making a size 0 and a size 3?
Nakamura Mari: I am considering it and I will think more about people’s sizes from now on to accommodate more people.
Nakamura Mari, would you consider setting up a shop or outlet for your clothes in the UK?
Nakamura Mari: Could you ask the buyers of all the shops? I want to do it but I need to find someone who can carry my dresses. If you want to I will let you.
I am curious about what your partners think of the fashion and lifestyle?
Nakamura Mari: I am single but if they like me then surely they should like me as long as I am cute.
Suzuki Mariko: My husband often looks like he wants to say something about it.
Akira: As I said before, I find it soothing and beautiful to look at so I think there is no problem with girls pursuing cuteness.
Koitsukihime: I would like a boyfriend that will suit lolita.
Japan has got any styles, are there any other styles you like in the streets beyond lolita such as mori or dolly?
Nakamura Mari: Not really.
I have a question for Akira: do you think it is better to use wigs or natural hair with lolita?
Akira: You get more volume with a wig and it will change your whole face.
Even if it doesn’t look natural?
Akira: Well, these days wigs look natural.
To Suzuki Mariko Recently the publishing industry has been facing many challenges with e-books and the like. Is this something that Gothic & Lolita Bible are moving into or thinking of moving into.
Suzuki Mariko No, we are not thinking about it.
To Nakamura Mari: you mentioned earlier doing a collaboration for ball-jointed dolls, have you ever considered working on a design for the dolls and doing a photo-shoot that way?
Nakamura Mari: If there was an order I may do so.
Are there any major differences between Western lolitas and Japanese lolitas?
Nakamura Mari: I think that western lolitas coordinate differently and colourwise they stand out more.
Did our appearance surprise you?
Nakamura Mari: It is exactly as I imagined, everyone looks really cute.
Is there anything that as a lolita you should never do or never wear?
Nakamura Mari: If you don’t like it then don’t wear it. However please don’t cross your legs and smoke at the same time.
How old were you when you got into lolita fashion?
Suzuki Mariko I got into the fashion in about 1998 when I first saw lolitas.
Nakamura Mari: When I was 15 or 16 I started to see lolitas on the street and got into it that way. 5 years after that I made my own company.
Koitsukihime: Before gothic lolita was invented, I had always been wearing very gothic and black clothing. But I can’t tell you how old I am.
[The compere, Kyra, then turned to the guests and asked them if they had any questions for the attending lolitas. The answers were quite interesting.]
Is there anything you would like to ask us?
Nakamura Mari: How did you guys find out about lolita?
- I discovered ball-jointed dolls in 2006 and through them I found lolita fashion.
- My brother got me into the fashion. He told me about it when I was 12 or 13, recently he told me about it again and so I looked into the fashion and got my first lolita dress.
Nakamura Mari: You have a good brother.
- I got into it through my best friend, she came to my house dressed in wa-loli so I kind of got into it through that.
Nakamura Mari: I am extremely impressed with all of your make-up and coordinates today and I was wondering how long it took you to get ready?
- 3 months! (laughter)
- 2 hours!
- I woke up at 8am and I left at 11am.
- I got up at 7:30 and I spent several hours yesterday preparing my accessories so probably in total about 10 hours.
Nakamura Mari: Can anyone guess how long it took us to get ready today?
[A variety of guesses were shouted out from 3 hours to 5 minutes]
Nakamura Mari: I just threw on my dress and put some stuff in my hair, and it took about 15 minutes!
After that was a small break for lunch, more shopping and for the models in the fashion show to take over. The models were chosen by Nakamura and Suzuki in advance from photos submitted by people wanting to apply. Also in this time Sakaurasheff took over completely as I had been picked for the catwalk and organised a scavenger hunt with clues taking you around the hotel. Each clue led you to a letter spelling out the name of Nakamura’s cat (Azreal) each group that put the letters in the right order and spelt out the name went into a tiebreaker round asking how many people have attended the TPC’s anniversary meets altogether (answer 20, 40, 40, 50, 180 = 330).
Now the catwalk. Each item that was shown was unreleased at the time so it was really exciting to see them in real life. Each model carried a number on a playing card; the audience was given a piece of paper to write down their favourite and if there was any they wanted to reserve. A small disclaimer that aside from the wonderful chokelate none of us are real models and had only had one walkthrough, late the night before. Also all our shoes were shared between the models and a lot were too big!
There were 12 models each with one change, except Chokelate who wore 3 outfits in the show. Juliette et Justine chose each outfit to what they thought suited each model and styled them accordingly. They gave us cards to hold so everyone in the audience could mark their favourite and pre-order the one they liked on the paper that was left on their chair.
(some people missed off by the person filming, sorry!)
At two points in the show we had two singers sing an Aria each, the beautiful and talented
After we went round with the second outfit each model came out and circled the stage
we then posed at the edges and clapped the aria singers, and Nakamura as she came out to take a bow
After the fashion show everyone was ushered back into the other room (with the stalls) for tea and cake. Whilst that was being devoured we took down the stage and put up at table. Nakamura and Suzuki had signed a postcard for everyone on the plane journey over and gave them out to everyone as they lined up. Everyone had a chance to talk briefly and Nakamura took in the forms they had given out and took everyone’s photo with a number so they could remember which belonged to who!
After that we had another raffle. This was 2 of 3 for the two days and was a lot of donated western indie brand items, brand items (such as skirts, cutsews, bows, jewellery and accessories) either donated by the organisers and other lovely people or bought cheap from Closet Child and Fururun with the ticket money, and the prizes donated from JetJ and the GLB.
Finally it was time to say goodbye! Unfortunately my thanks to Michaela and Jennifer are half cut off in the video, but they were thanked on the day!
I got a rather large surprise too! Laughably I cried way too early, before I had any idea what was going on, but in my defence I had been planning this solidly from May til September and had injected my heart and soul into making sure the event went smoothly, it was a bit of an emotional time! I’m also pretty shy when it comes to getting thanks for things in person.
I’m incredibly lucky that so many of my friends from all around the world were there to share <3
(Whilst we were sat posing for the group photo Nakamura and Suzuki were looking at my ring and started singing Beyonce’s ‘Single Ladies’ to me XD They’re the cutest!)
And this was just day 1 of 2 ha ha! I’ll post about Sunday’s event eventually, but it may take me another 4 months! Sorry! Michaela and myself are planning another event on the 31st August, and are just starting to reveal things about it now. If you fancy a trip to London we’d love to meet you!