Written by Lucy May
In our first blog post here at R.R. Memorandum, we said:
Modern lolita is very beautiful in its own way, but the rise of OTT style as standard in the western community at least makes it more viable as special event wear, or costume in some cases. Old school represents a memorandum of a time when lolita was something you lived in your soul, and that manifested tangibly as the aesthetic. Of course, this is not to say that lifestyle lolita is dead, or that modern lolitas aren’t aware of the original ideals of the style, but to remind you, dear reader, that lolita is a radical way to exist.
In the veins of the brand is a spirit that revels in a radical and revolutionary way of life, and a striving towards creating change. A priority within the vision of R. R. Memorandum has therefore always been sustainability. These last couple of years have seen an awakening of wider society to the damaging effect of fast fashion, mass production and the toxic cycle of consumer culture (buy – use – break – throw away – buy).
It can be said that lolita fashion was and, in many ways, still is ahead of its time in striving for the sustainable. In the 1990s/early 2000s, Japanese youths in the Visual Kei alternative scene led the fashion movement of creating, altering and mending garments to wear to meet up with their friends and attend underground music events. Lolita brands such as Baby the Stars Shine Bright, Angelic Pretty (or ‘Pretty’ as it was first), ‘Manifestage’ Metamorphose Temps Du Filles and Moi Meme Moitie responded to this, creating garments in limited numbers using quality materials and superior construction methods. As a result, obtaining Japanese ‘burando’ first hand has always come with a high price-tag. Wearers of this fashion, as a result of its quality construction and high value, treat their clothing with care and attention. Perhaps the most famous example of EGL clothing maintenance is in the light novel/film Shimotsuma Monogatari/Kamikaze Girls. Protagonist Momoko recognises the value of her clothes and does her best to preserve them through mending holes with pretty embroidery, thus leading the trend of upkeep by example and becoming the fictitious hero of old-schoolers the world over. Additionally, (and luckily for those outside Japan) owing to the fact pieces are made to last, the trickle-down effect has, in recent years, meant that oldschool lolita and Japanese brand pieces in general have become much more accessibly purchased.
Still, to a lolita layman, the building of a specifically EGL alternative wardrobe seems like a daunting task when met with issues surrounding obtaining quality garments. I don’t think any EGL wearer in the Western world can fairly call themselves ‘zero-waste’ if they truly consider the Milanoo mistakes they made (despite the best efforts of the seasoned lolita wearers), or the replicas they shamefully mention having owned.
Yet if there was one, single piece of advice to be given, it is this golden nugget from Lou Graves (known more popularly as Gravelvet - a dear friend and collaborator with R.R. Memorandum). He correctly stated:
‘The best thing you can do for your own finances, your own mental health and your own quality of life, as well as to start fighting capitalism…is to genuinely just come to terms with who you are and what you like. That’s the first step to improving literally everything. Let yourself develop your own personality. Capitalist society actively works against you doing that because you’ll spend more money trying to buy the identity they want to sell you.’
This is true: even in EGL fashion today. As time has gone on, EGL, too, has unfortunately in many ways fallen victim to capitalism. The rise in art-theft through replica production is rampant, as well as the generalised watering down of quality in the fabrics and construction techniques employed in creating the garment. There is also a pressure on Japanese designers and brands to cater for and keep up with the demands of the market, and the ease with which pieces are obtained from Taobao and resellers.
The frequency of consumption, demand for commodity and questionable construction of garments at times can leave modern lolita fashion feeling less-than-special. Emotional connection to modern garments is stunted for those of us still so enamoured with old school EGL: for us, the ability to manifest the self within is somehow lost in newer pieces. EGL has become a commodity-based status symbol, rather than a rebellious way to stand against consumerist cultural expectation. There is something very sad about the perfectness required from the average modern lolita coordinate now: again, this increases demand for the commodity of an entire matching set, rather than the ‘making do with and using what we have’ spirit of old school.
That’s why R.R. Memorandum as a fashion brand focuses on the past rather than the present. Rather than simply being nostalgic for the garments of the past, our aim is to bring them to a modern audience, and reify an appreciation for the quality and authentic cultural rebellion they represent. We cling to tradition of handmade clothes, robust fabrics, high-standard of finish and a breathing of the spirit of the past into our beloved fashion and subculture once more.