It was sunny at 8:20 AM in Las Vegas when the interview began; the coffees we had all bought were finished off during the akai SKY band interview which can be read here. Everyone wore smiles and laughed cheerfully and despite the early hour, Umi pulled off beautifully cute as though it came naturally to her; years of taking Lolita fashion seriously might have that intriguing effect or maybe it really does come naturally to her.
Which came first for you, wearing Lolita or creating/playing music?
I think they kind of came around the same time. I don’t really remember, but most people start to get into Japanese Rock, then start to get an interest in the visual bands and then you see a few of them dress in girl styles like Lolita. Then you go, “Oh, what is that?” Then you look it up and you see the Lolita style that most girls wear, some of the gothic styles or some of the less visual styles. So, I was interested in it at the time, then I started to play music, but it really all happened around the same time. I almost see them as a marriage, you know, so it’s hard for me to separate them in my mind, about which one came first.
How long did you know about Lolita fashion before you decided to start wearing it?
Possibly, a year? I had known about it before and I would think, “Oh, that’s pretty,” and I’d take pictures and be like, “If I had this skirt, I would wear it with…” [laughs] I was making up ensembles in my mind. And then I think one time I realized that there was a Lolita brand, Metamorphose, that would ship to the U.S. “Hey, I should try and order.” I think the first thing I did was order a little mini hat. It was really cute but I didn’t have anything to wear it with. Then they sold Lucky Packs that had, actually, the dress I wore yesterday and a few other basics. So, I really just started from there. Then my wardrobe started building and I started getting clothes from other places. When I went to Japan, I bought dresses. So, really, it’s kind of like that little monster that started as just a small and started growing and just took over my room.
By chance, is there a reason why you are so passionate about Lolita fashion?
Umi: Humm…. Hayashi: [Makes faces at Umi] Umi: [To Hayashi] Why are you looking at me? [Laughs] Um, I mean, I’ve always liked pretty things. [Laughs again] I mean, that sounds silly, who doesn’t like pretty things? [More laughter from everyone this time] So, yeah, it sounds silly, but I’ve always felt that I’ve had a slightly fashionable knack. Even when I was into sporty wear really early on in school, I wouldn’t leave the house until the outfit was, “OK” I wouldn’t just slap on anything.
Are there any particular brands you prefer? How about particular brands accessories?
I can’t pick out one, because they are all good at doing what they do. You know, a lot of people get into Lolita fashion and they are like, “I really like Sweet style,” or, “I really like Gothic style,” or, “I really like Punk style.” Me, I like to dabble in a lot of areas. So, I really enjoy each brand. I think they each have amazing things every now and then. So, I’m really just a dabbler.
Do you have any favorite Non-Lolita Brand?
I used to like Express a lot, but that’s when I wasn’t into any specific fashion. I mean, I think in terms of building out my Lolita wardrobe, inexpensively, I would say H&M or Forever 21. They have cute stuff every now and then. They are on the cheaper side, but they produce stuff that is fashionable, though you couldn’t wear it for years and years.
When you are putting together a Lolita ensemble, is there something you look for in particular? Perhaps color, symbols, type of cloth, or a particular type of Lolita style?
Well, I’m really big on crowns. So, usually when something has crowns on it, like jewelry or a dress, or something, I’ll have more of a fondness for it, so I’ll probably pick it. But, in terms of putting together an outfit…sometimes I think I’ll want to wear a particular item and then I’ll start pulling things that might go well with it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. So, sometimes I spend 20 minutes getting ready and sometimes it takes 2 hours because there is a lot of trial and error. [Laughs]
What are the key things you look for when you want to make sure you are going to buy something of good quality?
I think I want to make sure it’s kind of versatile. I want to make sure I can take the excess ribbons off, or that maybe it can be styled a little different. So, let’s say it has detachable long sleeves, you can either wear it with short sleeves or long sleeves. Mostly, I go by the feel of the fabric. I want to make sure it doesn’t feel too thin, that it has a little bit of sturdiness to it and that it’s nice to the touch.
To add to that, if you find something in Japan that you can’t get here in the U.S. unless you ship it, how do you determine that it’s worth it?
I really go by visual, when I see it I have the instant, “I have to have it” moment. Then I’ll put it in the shopping cart and then I’ll check out all the measurements, whether it will fit me correctly. If it seems like it wouldn’t fit, I’ll say, “Okay, I shouldn’t buy it.” If I get all the way, “Okay, I really like it, it should fit…,” then I usually go away and come back. If I’m still totally in love with it when I come back after a few hours or a day, I’ll buy it. Though sometimes I’ll be like, “I don’t really need it.” [Laughs]
Have you ever made your own clothing or considered making your own clothing?
I made a few Lolita inspired things before, like I made bloomers and a blazer. So, I’ve made myself clothing before, but I’m not really the type of person that makes their own clothes, because I’m not sure that my sewing skills will stand up to everyday wear. So it’s more out of being scared than anything else. [Laughs] Like it would fall apart on me.
For some, going out dressed in Lolita is a scary thought, even though they may really want to do it. Was wearing Lolita a difficult step for you to take, emotionally, or was it easy?
It’s a little difficult, even sometimes now. Like, “Oh, I really wanna wear this dress,” but if I don’t really feel that great about myself that day, in terms of self-confidence, I’ll just be really chill and wear jeans. And, it’s not like you can wear Lolita every day, obviously you can’t wear it to the gym, or to go plow a field…
But, I really feel self confidence is the biggest thing to build up to wear Lolita. On days that I find I am like, “You know what? I’m just going to wear this outfit and I’m going to rock it,” it will be fine. Some people will look at you and that’s fine. I realize it’s not something people see everyday, but I feel that most of the people that have a negative reaction to my outfit, aren’t the most stylish people in the world either so it doesn’t matter to me what their opinion is.
Actually, a lot of times people often go, “I don’t know what that is, but it’s a really great outfit.” So, I feel that if you have the self-confidence to carry it off, you will look good no matter what. Even if it’s not normal, people will still think it looks good.
Do you have any advice for people thinking about wearing Lolita, or wearing Lolita for the first time?
They can visit my Lolita Fashion blog for pointers at Carousel of Crowns. I guess, if you’re just starting to get into Lolita start off with a piece that you really like. Do a little research, too. I personally think it’s a growing experience. I mean, whenever you start off with something new, you’re not going to know as much as someone that has been doing it for 10 years. Don’t be discouraged by what other people say. I mean its fashion, its self-expression. Just make sure you like it.
I think if anyone has any questions about Lolita fashion, there are definitely people out there that will be willing to help out, just ask around.
Carousel of Crowns
Photographer: Lydia Chen
Photographer Website: lydiachenphotography.wordpress.com
Interview by: Jen M.
Edited by: Ali W.