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.


Lolita Blog Carnival: What Made Certain Prints Like Iron Gate & Cat’s Tea Party, Etc, So Popular?

This weeks Lolita Blog Carnival topic is “What Made Certain Prints Like Iron Gate & Cat’s Tea Party, Etc, So Popular?”. For those who aren’t aware, “Iron Gate” and “Cat’s Tea Party” are two different lolita print series, from two different brands. These two series have one thing in common though: They were so sought after that they have sold second hand for over $1,000 USD, despite the initial prices being much lower.

This is something that really fascinates me personally, because at first glance, it seems almost arbitrary which pieces are and aren’t very valuable on the secondhand market. Personally, I think it varies from piece to piece, so I’d like to break it down by series, and I’d like to talk about a few other high price lolita items as well.

Moi meme moitie iron gateMana Iron Gate

First of all, Iron Gate. Iron Gate was released by Moi-même-Moitié in 2006. It was featured in Gothic Lolita Bible, Volume 20, where it was modeled by Mana, himself. One thing that is very interesting to note, in my opinion, is the opposite page. That left hand column talks about the latest album from Moi dix Mois; Beyond the gate. This issue of the GLB hit news stands a little less than a month after the album release. And in the side column, Mana talks about his latest Moi-même-Moitié collection and his latest musical work, which are tied together by this theme of gates. It didn’t all immediately sell out, though, in 2006, very few things did. In fact, In april, the JSK was still available in black x white, and black x navy, and the skirt was still listed in most colors in may. At least one cut/color of the skirt was still availableyear after release. So, while we can infer that the white colorway, the bag, and the OP cut, at least, were immediately popular, it appears that the series as a whole wasn’t immediately gone from stores. In fact, someone even posted in 2009 that they had an easy time buying it from CD Japan, who used to sell MMM overseas, because of how long it had been available.

It was, however, one of very few border prints available at the time, and it was relatively popular. It’s likely that there was a significant number of pieces made, since it lined up with the CD release. 2 years later, in 2008, a skirt auctioned off on EGL sold for 280 Euros. In 2012, a bag appears to have sold for $700 USD. In 2014, a faded dress was auctioned off with a starting bid of 400 Euros. It got no bids. In 2015, a JSK was listed for $850 USD. In fact, the first time I saw Iron Gate listed for over $1000 USD, it was a western second hand shop selling it, and it sat for a while because the price seemed too high to people at the time.

Royal GateIron gate now regularly sells for over $1,000, and while MMM has released a very similar print called Royal Gate, it doesn’t sell for anywhere near as much, though it does still fetch retail prices. (It is worth noting that Royal Gate is flocked and generally much less attractive). Overall, Iron Gate has an attractive motif, it was a border print in a time when border prints were just starting, and, I think most importantly, it’s still in fashion in a way that many of the other popular prints from that time period aren’t. For example, Angelic pretty’s 2006 print pastel a la mode looks dated when you compare it to other sweet prints, and there are so, so many cake prints to pick from. I think with Iron Gate, part of it is just that it was established as a status symbol, and once it became a status symbol, once Iron Gate became Iron Gate, I think it accelerated it’s value. Add a few people who were willing to pay way more for it, and the fact that it’s now well over 10 years old, and you have a piece who’s reputation as a rare, expensive status piece precedes it to the point where it easily fetches a 4-figure price.

puppet circusThere is another piece that is conspicuously missing from the lolita blog carnival topic’s title though, and that piece is Angelic Pretty’s Puppet Circus. By around 2010, if my memory serves, Puppet Circus and Iron Gate were pretty firmly established as the iconic lolita prints. Puppet circus has a lot in common with iron gate; it’s a monotone border print on a solid base, with lots of delicate detailing, it was one of a very small number of border prints available in 2006 when it came out, and it has a very solid design. Unfortunately, the wayback machine didn’t capture much of the Angelic Pretty webshop in the fall of 2006, but Puppet Circus was soundly and thoroughly sold out by February of 2007. It’s very interesting to compare it to some of their other pieces though; many other pieces that were popular at the time like Carnival mention that they sold out on reservation (pre-order), but Puppet Circus doesn’t say anything about that on the JSK listing. In fact, according to the sendai blog, only the OP sold out on reserve at all, and even then it was just red and white. The skirt, at the very least, was still available a month after release, even in red, one of the more popular colors per the same blog. So, while puppet circus certainly started out at least moderately popular (it did sell out in some cuts/colors relatively fast for the time), it wasn’t the most popular piece from AP that year.

Cats Tea Party

Cat’s Tea Party is the first of the prints in this post that was released after I became a lolita. At 41,790 yen, it was significantly more expensive than the average Angelic Pretty dress at the time. It was released as set consisting of a choker, headbow and JSK. There were two colors, but that was it. Gray or Pink, one cut. It has quarter shirring, and while I can’t find anyone who actually lists the minimum and maximum measurements, it’s relatively safe to say it’s probably around 90cm +/- 8cm in the bust and 70cm +/- 8cm in the waist. So, it’s about on par with Innocent World’s standard sizing. When it came out, the dollar to yen exchange was horrendous, like 78 yen to the dollar, kind of horrendous, making this set something like $535 USD (and that’s before international shipping and shopping service fees).

It’s a cute print, sure. Some people really liked the snooty little cats in it. But it’s a pastel print with cats. There are a bunch of other ones. So, at the time, a few people were really excited about the way the cats looked in this print, and some of them could afford it and bought it. But, some people were also just really indifferent to it, and some people couldn’t afford it, and some people just missed the fact that it even existed, and some people it wouldn’t fit so they didn’t bother. And that matters, a lot. Because it was make-to-order only, and it was only available for a short period of time. My theory is just that not many people bought this dress and/or the people who did had to really, really love it if they were spending twice the cost of a new dress for a dress in an unpopular theme (cat prints did not sell well in 2012; it was hard to get rid of them second hand, even when they were new). When the dress is sold in the western community, it’s often a piece that has already changed hands before, and it doesn’t come up for sale often. A few people who really love this set have been willing to pay a very high price for it over the last 5 years, and because of that, in particular, the price has gone quite high. It’s sort of become a status symbol because of this, but it’s a very bizarre one, in my opinion, because it’s really only so rare because people didn’t want it.

By the way, if you are interested in the value, there is an analysis of sales prices by Nadinao.

4c38abdb8acef17a750d23a81d305a60--gothic-lolita-fashion-lolita-styleBut, while these three dresses are currently quite expensive on the secondhand market, that status isn’t guaranteed. Alice and the Pirates Elizabeth Bride of Death series released in 2012 shot up to over $3K USD at it’s highest point on one particular Japanese auction. In early 2017, the cut without the slit in the front was selling for a cool $1k on lace market. Then, Baby announced that they were going to re-release the cut shown to the right on make-to-order. Overnight, the value of both cuts plummeted, and now the pieces from the series are go unsold at half that price. If you are in love with one of the dresses above, but not their current price tag, my advice would be to check out other pieces from those brands. Search lolibrary for things like cats, or gates. You may find that one of the many other pieces with those motifs speaks to you, and your wallet too. Or, just wait it out. Values of most lolita pieces have been falling in general. Time will only tell if it will hit these iconic pieces as well.

545430_945698161629_573562109_nOther blogs participating in this theme:
Cupcake Kamisama’s Lolita WorldThe Bloody Tea Party ♥

Bodyline and Rape Culture in Lolita Fashion

First of all, in case it’s not obvious in the title, this post will talk about sexual assault, sexual harassment and rape, though it will generally be in the abstract and non-explicit.

Most lolita are familiar with Bodyline, and many are familiar with Mr. Yan, the owner of bodyline who is on a quest to acquire more waifus.

If you google “Mr. Yan” you get memes like this:

1604870_211471149061878_1298071646_n 1396138701830 dreamy-mr-yan yan sad yan 1356607150349

A selection of YouTube Videos like “Leave Mr. Yan Alone!“, a video of a lolita teaching him to Tango when he was touring the world, and multiple unboxings of his Body pillow.

And of course there is the infamous body pillow, which sold out and was recently re-released:


And as I mentioned above, he did a world tour where young women met with him while dressed up in lolita and flirted with him and joked around about him.

Recently, at rufflecon there was a panel called “Mr. Yan’s Next Top Waifu (18+)” where someone wore a Mr. Yan costume and held a fake wife contest. I didn’t attend, but the line was quite long. 

Before I go any farther, I want to say that this is simply an explorational piece and I am not calling attention to the people who used these memes, own these body pillows, made these videos, hosted or attended these panels in an attempt to condemn or shame them. Instead, I’d like to take an abstract look at the meme of “Mr. Yan” inside the lolita community. I encourage readers to draw their own conclusions and determine on their own how they feel about these things.

That said, let’s look into the history of the Meme of Mr. Yan. For starters, the first exposure the western lolita community really had to Mr. Yan was through cheesy images and videos used by the Bodyline site to promote sales. Most people who viewed these images and videos found them funny, and thought very little of it at the time. Though there were already mentions of him being a bit of a creep.

It wasn’t until later that it came out that the Mr. Yan so furious sale, which involved him breaking a mirror on camera because he was so mad, lined up with a model contest winner refusing to marry him, and Bodyline trying to force her to pay them back for her free trip because she wouldn’t marry the owner. Looking at this in the abstract, the contest was borderline human trafficking. Had the girl not had the money to pay her way out of it, she could have been trapped in Japan. This was back in 2009. There were also some rumors of Model Contest Winner Nadia (Yes, the love Nadia print is named after her) being hit on as well, and even back then there was chatter about Mr. Yan being a creep. In 2010 a Facebook fan club was set up. In 2012, Yoshiko left bodyline and had issues getting bodyline to mail her back her things. And in 2013, there was the whole thing with Venus which may or may not be exaggerated / staged; it’s hard to tell as her mother was pushing her as a reality entertainment personality. I don’t want to make light of her situation or imply that it’s ok to question accusations of harassment, but I also am not sure how credible her accounts are, given that we know her mother is not a credible source. In 2014, there was the sexy Mr. Yan body pillow which has it’s own fan page, and was literally made because over 100 people pre-ordered it after people asked Bodyline to make it.

Ok, so now we have set the scene a bit. Mr. Yan is a middle aged man who owns bodyline, he’s a pervert who likes to try to touch young women without permission, asks them to go to love hotels and/or marry him, and it’s funny.

It’s funny.



Except, it’s kind of not funny.

So what is Rape Culture? “Rape culture is a term that was coined by feminists in the United States in the 1970’s. It was designed to show the ways in which society blamed victims of sexual assault and normalized male sexual violence.” [x]

It’s been a bit of a buzz word in the news lately in the US, but at it’s core, I think it’s an interesting, and valuable sociological concept to look at. In this particular case we have unwanted male attention being given to young women who are models. So they are coming into a job, where the payment is a trip to Japan, and the company owner is sexually harassing them, and if they refuse his advances, he’s violent. That’s quite a scary situation for most young women.

When we make a joke out of it, and laugh about it happening, this normalizes that behavior. It says to other people “I care more about this joke being funny, than I do about the fact that a young woman being hurt in real life was the punch line”. And that’s a dangerous slope. Because, if and when he has another contest for a model, and if we jokingly called it a waifu contest, and young women who are fairly new to lolita enter because to them it’s always been an abstract joke, and one of them gets hurt… what do we tell her then. Is it still funny? Is it still a joke? And is it respectful to those girls in the past who have been mistreated by Mr. Yan to joke about their sexual harassment?

If someone else comes into the community and flirts and jokes, and touches young women inappropriately, are we going to write it off as ok? What if they are cosplaying Mr. Yan, does it become ok?

The last batch of pillow cases were $21 each, and they made at least 100 of them. The new batch is $3.33. Let’s assume that at least $10 of the $21 was profit. That means Mr. Yan made at least $1,000 USD off of selling himself as someone who sexually harasses young women.

Is that something we as a community should laugh about, should joke about, should encourage?

Just… think about it.

…and as always feel free to tell me your thoughts in the comments.