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Loli-Pop @ V&A Museum

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by Chris Henniker (subscribe)
There are 6m postcodes in London, what's happening in yours?
Lolita complex: Kawaii is what they aim for and always hit the target.
No, Gary, It's not not what you're thinking. It's a Japanese street fashion that embraces cuetsy femininity that was showcased at the Victoria and Albert Museum this weekend, which one Lolita, Bree, succinctly summed up as:

It's a fashion based on C18th Roccoco, with a modern Twist, with Alice in Wonderland thrown in. It's basically a big eclectic mix of of frilly fashion."

The frills and lace seem to mask something sinister (Gary, I'm watching you. Don't you dare!), which she rejects; "The name "Lolita" is a Japanese Engrish thing where they take a word which they thought had a meaning that was innocent and put that to the fashion. I'm not trying to attract older men, I'm trying to enjoy the beaty of life, which is why I wear big frilly dresses."

Even I'll admit, it looks adorable. It gets my attention and how do people react? "It depends on what I'm wearing," Bree explains. "If I'm wearing an over the top of dress, I'll get a lot of stares, I get a lot of questions asked, but if I'm wearing a more casual dress, I just get a few stares."

With people even being attacked (sometimes kids have even been murdered) just for looking different, what prejudice does she encounter?

I don't know much about the murder of Sophie Lancaster, so it would be pointless for me to comment."

I'd like to point out that Sophie Lancaster was a goth who was murdered by yobs just for being different. She never conformed to the filthy tracksuit tucked into socks and baseball cap look many kids conform to. After clarifying, Bree explains: "This is a problem, anyway, that kids face in school from the age of 11 until 18, when they're trying to find their niche in life. I was bullied in school for being a goth ... I walk past a group of chavs and they're really confused."

When I met her friend and fellow Lolita, Louisa, she gives her views on prejudice against the Lolita fashion:

People have that 'you're a freak' thing, but I've never enocountered that with Lolita."

Confusing chavs is what looking different is about, especially if you're a Lolita. It's also good for confusing paedophiles. What makes it more confusing to the public is that although Japanese, it's aesthetic influences are quintessentially English. When I asked Bree about them, she says;

There is (sic) different styles of Lolita dress, it just depends on what style you're in. Japanese Lolita takes inspiration in Kimonos, that has the kimono sleeves, skirts. It's got all different rules, so you have to read into it. Originally, it's all Alice in Wonderland, Victorian Britain. I just dress in it for fun."

It's interesting because although desexualised, it put across a feminine image. Louisa, told me: "It does put across a very strongly feminine gender role. Women nowadays really want to do that. They wear jeans and T-shirts and it's great to express their femininity wearing Lolita."

I had to admit to them that I actually find it refreshing that kids aren't conforming to the grey tyrrany of the tracksuit and trainers, even saying that I'd rather see a 14-16 year old kid go to school in a tailored 1960's era suit straight out of Quadrophenia. My personal view is that kids are looking for something that won't date, even if it means drawing on the past. Louisa agreed: "It would be lovely to see more vintage styles come into fashion now."

With the past sorted, what of the future? "I think there's giong to be a big spread of it in western culture, hopefully not too much of the cheap stuff coming through." Would it become more mass market? "Yeah, that's the worry." There always is on, Louisa. "I heard rumours of a Bodyline store opening in London, it used to be known for having cheap and ugly clothes, but it's got a lot better recently."

Aside from the Lolita, I noticed some increasing interest in east Asian culture. Coming home from exploring the metropolis on an earlier day, I saw three English kids with a Korean language Placard. It turned out that some Korean idol was performing at the O2 (named the North Greenwich Arena during the Olympics & Paralympics), which astonished me that Korean wave was breaking on the shores of England.

"There are a lot of Japanese bands that come across now. I know Dir-en- Grey, X-Japan, Malice Mizer."

I even thought Malice Mizer's lead singer was a girl, which shows the great attention to detail and eye for design the Lolita has, which is inherent in Japanese culture. "A lot of people do," which Louisa tells me, "It takes a lot of make up and a lot of time and effort." Even Louisa has a buisiness called Icing Sugar, which makes Lolita fashion in Norfolk, where she's from. "There was an article in Marie Claire, just this month and it was brilliant. Ahh, my fashion's in a magazine. It'd been in The Independent, even The Sunday Times Style Magazine."

Being from Norfolk, she was seemingly isolated: "I was the only Lolita in the area, I live in Norfolk." Lest you think she's Straight out of Little Britain, being the only Lolita in the Village, it's a great social scene, as the Victoria and Albert Museum is testimony too: "Now there are four girls, which is great, now I have more friends."

"I'm not personally interested in culture coming from Asia, just the fashion." Asking about Venus Angelic, she has a bit of criticism for her:

"She's a cute girl, but she's a bit immature and she was on TV, wasn't she? She's been a bit .. engaged in behaviour on the internet that isn't very good."

I didn't enquire about what behaviour Miss Angelic engaged in, so I won't say anything (libel laws). However, these girls seem like the most decent people you could imagine and just want to have fun without making a fool of themselves, while fighting the drabness of everyday existence in England.

The entertainment was exceptional, with yours truly ending up watching the funniest comedy about the unlikely friendship between a sweet Lolita and a female bozozuku, with the best running gag being the Biker gives a Kirby Kiss to anyone who seemingly harms her. When she faints when she meets the designer and owner of Baby, The Stars Shine Bright and faints in awe. She headbutts him, thinking she has used his bad breath to knock our Lolita out.

Now, Mr Gadd, I hope this puts the record straight. Keep your filthy mitts off them and you might learn something. Your glittering career is over and you're not singing anymore.
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When: Fri 31 August 2012 18:30
Where: Cromwell Road, London, Greater London SW7 2RL, United Kingdom
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