How The Western Lolita Community Is Failing Chinese Brands

Recently, I made a change to one of my resources pages. For a long time, I’ve had a page called “Taobao brand list“. Which, it was. It was a list of shops, on the platform taobao, that sold lolita. That’s what the western community calls them, right? Taobao brands. Except, we don’t call western indie brands “etsy brands”, or “store envy brands” or “paypal brands”. We call them indie brands. And it doesn’t matter if they are in England, or Australia or Canada, or the United States, or anywhere else in the non-asian world. We call them indie brands. Sure, there aren’t many of them, so it makes it easy right? But, if an indie brand is in Korea, it’s a Korean brand or a Korean indie brand. And if an indie brand is in Japan, it’s a brand.

But if an indie brand is in China, it’s a taobao brand.

And if someone says “oh, that dress looks really taobao-ish”, you know what they mean, right? Somethings not quite right about it, right? Maybe the design is weak, or the lace is cheap, or the art style just isn’t quite right.

But, it’s ok, right? I mean, everyone knows it, right?

It just looks Chinese, right?

…was that last statement jarring? I really hope it was.

If it wasn’t, it should be. In fact, a lot of this should be jarring.

Because it’s really quite racist.

Long Ears Sharp Ears - Girlism Fashion Show

Long Ears Sharp Ears at the Girlism Fashion Show

China has one of the most sophisticated manufacturing infrastructures in the world, and China is second in the world for countries with the most billionaires. It’s also arguably one of the largest markets for lolita fashion, if not the largest.

There are more Chinese indie lolita brands and Chinese lolita brands than there are indie lolita brands and lolita brands in the rest of the world combined.

And, if you go on taobao, and look at the sales numbers on popular pieces from popular Chinese brands, they easily eclipse the sales numbers of some of the companies that western lolita consider “brands”. And these pieces aren’t carbon copies. They are fresh, and innovative. There are new shapes, and details and motifs coming out of these brands. Different Chinese brands hit different price points (and, by necessity, quality levels), making lolita more accessible to more people.

There is a Chinese lolita fashion mook, Girlism, with high quality photography that makes the GLB look cheap.

And the Chinese lolita community is setting trends that influence the design choices of brands in Japan.

And yet, western lolita have the audacity to not only be disrespectful to hundreds of designers and brands by lumping them into one and calling them taobao brands, after their sales platform, but to use that as a put-down for low quality or ugly pieces, as if all of China is a hive-mind producing cheap crap.

It’s shameful, and it’s racist, and it needs to stop.

Today, highly skilled workers in Chinese factories produce some of the highest quality designer goods in the world. Most Japanese lolita brands have at least some of their items produced in Chinese factories, and they have for years. The idea that Chinese made lolita items are low quality because they were made in China is a misconception fueled in part by the fact that for many years, China simply was exceptional at manufacturing things inexpensively. That naturally led to western companies who needed cheap stuff made cheap to turn to Chinese factories, which in turn led to an association between cheap stuff and Chinese manufacturing in western culture. The fact that cheap items, or low quality items, or fake items produced in China exist, does not negate the accomplishments of hundreds of Chinese lolita designers who make nice things. After all, cheap and low quality lolita items exist in Japan and in the west as well.

I’d like to encourage people to be mindful of the language they use to describe things. Lolita is changing, and evolving, and I believe that Chinese lolita fashion brands are likely to hold a more and more pivotal role in the future.


Girlism: A Chinese Lolita Fashion Magazine

Girlism Volume 6

I’ve been “reading” Girlism since they started publication (I say “reading” because I can’t read a single word of Chinese, so it’s more of just a picture book to me), and it’s quickly becomes one of my favorite lolita fashion publications. I just picked up volume 6, shown above.

Each issue comes with gifts, and I’m not talking just a post card (though they do often include those!). This particular issue came with a heavy duty screen print canvas tote bag from Yolanda…

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this set of post-card sized prints from Yolanda in a sheer envelope,
two cute postcards from the Japanese otome brand, Leur Getter,
…and a big double sided poster!
Here are the front and back covers of the latest issue. One thing I will note is that shipping inside of China is a little rough. Some of the issues (including this one) have gotten to my shopping service with busted corners. One of the earlier issues came with a clear file that got shattered in the mail. It’s definitely happening before it gets to my shopping service or at the office of my shopping service though, as they are putting them in the middle of a package full of lace for their trip overseas.
Overall, the photo quality in Girlism is really high, as is the print quality. It’s nicer, IMHO, than Kera or the GLB. Here is a quick flip through of the latest issue. It features Japanese brands like Angelic Pretty, Innocent World, Baby and Meta, as well as the best of Chinese lolita brands.

Each issue is 80 yuan + 10 yuan shipping inside of China, which comes out to about $13 USD. Some of the nicer gifts are limited to the first x-number sold though, so to get the most for your money, order early! Some of the past gifts I’ve gotten included a peel-off lip stain, a Berry-Q heart shaped pouchette, Baby the Stars Shine Bright Clear files and a ton of post cards and stationary.