Christmas is only a week away, but I’m personally finding it hard to believe that we’re not stuck in April, waiting for life to go back to normal after quarantine. It seems like we’ve gotten back only the monotonous bits of life (work, school, responsibilities …) without any of the fun stuff, so the days have all blurred together. Regardless of my personal feelings though, gift giving season is here, and for this week’s LBC we’re supposed to discuss good gift giving options for lolita fashion enthusiasts.
Holiday shopping can be tough for anyone, but when people are into obscure hobbies like lolita fashion, it can be almost impossible to find the right gift without doing a lot of research about the fashion and the style that your friend or family member prefers. There is also the added issue of expense – smaller gifts like socks and jewelry can still be expensive but not be much of a thrill to give, and a whole dress set would rarely be appropriate unless you are particularly close.
I should also say, I like to give gifts, but I’m also an insensitively practical gift giver. I want to know before I spend all the time hunting something down that it is actually a desired gift. I certainly don’t want to see something held onto unworn for years because it wasn’t the right fit or style, but I’d be a little sad to see the gift sold or thrown out because it meant that I didn’t do a good job. For this reason, I personally prefer to just ask people for their wishlists unless I know them particularly well. Most lolitas have one, and honestly would be flattered to be asked.
That said, wishlists don’t always work out. Items can be hard to source for the uninitiated, and as previously mentioned, they can be quite expensive. So, for those of you feeling underwhelmed by the idea of giving a pair of socks, or who prefer the surprise element, here is a list of shops that I’d consider “lolita-adjacent.” These brands don’t sell lolita fashion items, but they still fit the cute aesthetic.
Kitschy Home Decor
Cath Kidston – Based in the UK, Cath Kidston is a popular variety shop featuring cute designs on everyday homegoods and objects. These items are not crafted with a kawaii aesthetic, but I think that they are a great choice for lolitas who have a professional life, or prefer a more mature daily style. While the prices trend a bit high, I personally feel that the quality is worth the expense. I have a few purses, sweaters, and travel goods that have been in my wardrobe for years and still have quite a bit of life left in them.
Stuffed bear sets available from Cerise online store.
Cerise – Tucked away in a side street between Takeshita street and Laforet, Cerise was a sleepy little select shop that carried hatboxes, posters, candles and plush animals. As a select shop most of the items available are not “Ceries” brand, but instead cute collaboration items from Toyme, Maki, and other designers. While I’ve collected quite a few of their hatboxes, it was always a dream of mine to be able to one day walk in and purchase one of the big fluffy bears featured in their shop window. Sadly, this year saw the closure of their brick-and mortar store, but they are still alive and well online and in pop-up form.
Romapri – Romapri is a brand that used to be featured pretty regularly in the Gothic and Lolita Bibles, and for good reason. The name is a portmanteau of the words “Romantic Princess” and the styles offered are certainly fit for royalty. Romapri offers everything from duvet covers to curtains and cutlery, making it a great choice for those who are looking to spruce up their living space.
Royal Albert – While there are many lovely purveyors of fine china, I can think of none quite so well known worldwide as Royal Albert. Old Country Roses is probably their most popular design, but for those who want a more modern take, the Cheeky Pink and New Country Roses are a great selection. That said, as a gift these collections are quite expensive, so personally, I would probably only purchase these for a collector or tea enthusiast myself.
Swimmer – While the original Swimmer brand has been out of business for a few years now, it’s still possible to pick up their items on the second hand market. That said, they’ve returned with a new online shop, and are available at select PATTYS stores in Japan. Swimmer features kawaii homegoods and personal care items, with a product range that spans everything from kitchen goods to headphones and slippers. Swimmers items tend to be on the cheaper side, and don’t always last a long time. I’d personally recommend their purses, kitchen goods and hard shelled luggage if you want a gift that will last more than a few years
Stationary & Art
Econeco – there are many kawaii artists online, but what makes Econeco unique isn’t her subject matter (cute animals) but rather her chosen color palette. Her water color style features both pastels and jewel tones, making her work stand out amongst the crowd. At her online store you can purchase a variety of stationary and art, as well as plush animals and duvet covers.
Miki Takei – Miki Takei is an illustrator who focuses primarily on stationary goods decorated with girly objects and cute animals. Her pastel style may seem familiar to those who have seen her work on Instagram and Facebook. Sourcing her items can be somewhat difficult as she doesn’t appear to have a specific webshop set up yet. That said, I have seen her items at Tokyu Hands, Kinokuniya, and around Amazon, but I think an in-person japanese shopping service might be the easiest way to acquire her works right now.
Kira Imai – Kira Imai is famous among lolitas as one of two illustrators who produces the postcard illustrations for Angelic Pretty’s designs. Iconic for her soft and dreamy style, her works are available as postcards, posters, keychains, and artbooks.
Maki – Most lolitas will know Maki as one of the garment designers at Angelic Pretty, but not everyone is aware that she has her own line of stationary, phone cases and hatboxes available featuring her collection called “Dreamin Tiny Pets.” Available at both her Booth shop and the Cerise webstore, her works add a delightful bit of whimsy to any office or bedroom.
Ms. Lutra – Ms. Lutra takes the cute animal trope common to lolita interests and adds a quirky touch to her illustrations. From cats getting haircuts, exercising, or dressed as stewardesses, to bizarre fluffy aliens doing their laundry, her designs are colorful and a bit silly. You can purchase her illustrations on a variety of goods, from stationary and phone cases to coin pouches and scarves.
(Top Left Sanrio, Bottom Left San-X, Right Pusheen)
It doesn’t feel like the idea of “character goods” has really caught on in a big way in the USA the way it has in Japan. Unlike merchandise made for TV shows or comic books, characters goods are produced to promote a specific character, or line of characters. Some of the more well known – Hello Kitty, Pom Pom Purin, Gudetama and Aggretsuko for example – are all characters made by Sanrio. But there are other companies who create cute characters for the sole purpose of merchandising out there as well, two of the more ubiquitous among kawaii enthusiasts being San-X of Rilakkuma fame, and the USA’s own Pusheen.
Of course, you can always purchase these types of items online at their respective retailer, and for those who like to do in person shopping, character goods are often found in bookstores or select shops – Barnes and Noble, Books a Million and Popcult are a few that come to mind. But for those who want to support small businesses who deal in nothing but Kawaii, I’d recommend Shop Kawaii in Pittsburgh, Japan LA in Los Angeles and Artbox in the UK. You can find all sorts of cute, authentic character goods at these locations, and they all have online stores to boot.
Magazines & Books
Lolita magazines and books used to be a bigger part of the subculture, for most of my time as a lolita magazine spreads were the quickest way to know about events that had happened, and new releases for the upcoming season. These days that type of information has largely moved online, resulting in the closure of most major lolita publications. Still, new or used, these collections can make a great gift as they provide both nostalgia and inspiration.
Suggested Reading Materials:
Girlism – Ongoing
Alice Deco a La Modeff
Otome no Sewing – Ongoing
Gothic & Lolita Bible
Gothic & Lolita Bible English
Lolita Fashion Guide & Sometimes Cute Revolution by Misako Aoki
So Pretty Very Rotten – In Print
Kamikazi Girls, Missin, and Missin 2 by Novala Takemoto
Nana and Paradise Kiss by Ai Yazawa
Cute cardigan from Lutra Jump and Blob Fish Beret from Crescent Creepers
So, I actually had two additional categories planned for this post, but it’s already taken me over half the day to write out just these highlights! I suppose that this will have to be enough for now! But before I go, I’d like to circle back to fashion. If you’d like to get something quirky and cute, but don’t necessarily want the items to be lolita related, I’d like to point out the brands Lutra Jump (Taobao) and Crescent Creepers (Etsy) for your browsing pleasure. While I haven’t done a lot of lolita shopping during 2020, these two brands have become my new casual wear obsessions.
Anyway, I hope you’ve found these suggestions are helpful, and that maybe you’ve found a few new brands or illustrators to check out! If you need more suggestions, check out these posts from other Lolita Blog Carnival Participants! Happy Holidays!