Thursday, 18 May 2017

Lifestyle Longings

I've always been a bit of a daydreamer, to the point where I have actually questioned whether there is actually something medically wrong with me. There have been times when I have been mid-conversation and I have suddenly 'cut off' because something has popped in to my head! Growing up, I had a lot of daydreams about my future. I wanted to be a singer, a postwoman, an author, an artist, a perfumer, a guitarist... and this is only a small number of the things I have wanted to do over the years.

When I initially discovered lolita fashion, I thought of it as just a fashion. As far as I was concerned, it was just clothing that I liked to wear from time to time and it had no impact on the other aspects of my life. But as time went on, my daydreaming started to take a lolita-related turn. I wanted to write a blog about my experiences, so I started one and here we are today. Suddenly, I wanted to design my own clothing. Not just any clothing, but lolita clothing. I filled up notepads with doodles of my designs. Honestly, there are so many designs I made that I have never shared with a single person. That's how many things I came up with! The problem was, I was not big on sewing and I had no idea how to make my dreams a reality. And what exactly was I hoping to get out of this? Did I want to start an indie brand? Would it just focus on clothing or would it incorporate other ideas? After seeing Grimoire release a perfume, the idea of becoming a perfumer entered my thoughts again. But there was also the idea of adding artwork and having a line of stationary. I found myself doodling brand logos and adding items to 'collections'. Up until recently, all I had done was submit a coat design to the Bodyline design contest. I didn't win, but a coat with a suspiciously similar design appeared on their website not long afterwards. A few of my ideas have since been done by brands anyway. I came up with a crescent shaped moon bag years before Angelic Pretty released their Melty Moon bag and the subsequent replicas. Far from being annoyed, I was just really happy that I could buy a piece that I really wanted!

Another flash of inspiration came up when I least expected it to. I was on holiday in Edinburgh, Scotland. After seeing it rated number 1 on TripAdvisor for food in Edinburgh, I found myself in a little place called Mary's Milk Bar. It is a little ice cream parlour in the Grassmarket area of the city. Our hotel happened to be nearby and we ended up in here on a sunny afternoon.

I was instantly enamoured with the place. I loved everything about it, from it's soft pastel furnishings, to the retro style throughout the store. It was a soothing place to be. Although it mainly stocks ice cream, Mary also sells things like chocolates and sauces (I brought a pot of salted caramel sauce from here and it tasted amazing!). Mary herself happened to be in the store when we went. I couldn't help but notice that Mary looked incredibly happy, and why wouldn't she? You could clearly see her influence throughout the store and her appearance seemed to 'fit' with the store's feel. Here was a lovely young woman who was pursuing something she felt passionate about. This was more than an ice cream parlour- this was a woman's dreams being realised.

The ice cream was pretty darn good as well! I had a rose flavoured ice cream and I think the one on top was white chocolate? As I sat in a seat in the window, looking up in Edinburgh Castle, I thought to myself "I would give anything to be able to switch with Mary for the day" and it was around then that I started wishing I could have a cafe all of my own.

Since then I have been coming up with menus, ideas of how I would decorate the place, what music I would play and the staff uniforms. But the lolita influence never strayed too far from my ideas. A lolita uniform would probably not be practical, I thought. I also didn't want a cafe that was too 'gimmicky' like maid cafes. But I wanted my cafe to be a place where a lolita could come and relax, to feel at home and to want to take pictures. So instead of a lolita cafe, it became a lolita 'influenced' cafe, the idea being it could be somewhere that appeals to both the general public and also be a place that a lolita community could host a meet. Have you seen the anime Marmalade Boy? The main character Miki gets a job in an ice cream parlour and she wears this adorable pastel uniform. As this is a shoujo anime from the 90's, there is a lot of dreamy, pastel colours everywhere. That is basically how I wanted my cafe to be, but with a more relaxed vibe so you could come in and sit down for an hour or so. I would hang lolita inspired artwork on the wall and the food itself would be very Instagram-friendly looking. 

But despite all my longing, I do realise that this is just a dream. They are expanding the shopping center in my town, but I would never be able to afford the rent. There is also the issue of getting the necessary hygiene and catering standards, which could mean having to take courses. My sister has done a lot of these for her job, but I don't think I would be able to persuade her to leave her job and come and work for me! Similarly, I don't have the necessary skills to make lolita items to a standard that I would be able to sell them. If I were to be serious about this, I would need to teach myself how to do a lot of sewing techniques. Some of my designs are a bit 'out there' and it would be a matter of figuring out if they are even possible to make. But I have recently come to the realisation that I don't want to start an indie brand. A lot of the reason why I created a lot of my designs is because of my frustration that I could not get these items from the brands. Even after going through pages of Etsy listings, I couldn't find anything close to how I imagined I wanted my ideal product to be. So I suppose it is less to do with wanting to become the next name in lolita fashion, and more to do with wanting the drawings I made to be a reality.

The other day I had Youtube open in the background and I had auto-play on. I was listening to a song by a band I have recently gotten in to called Death, when auto-play went to another of their songs. Death is a proto-punk band, but they have this slower number called Let the World Turn. I had sort of listened to it once and decided I didn't really like it and never went out of my way to listen to it again. But this time I decided to leave it playing. I had my earphones in and it was as if Bobby Hackney was whispering the words right in to my head. The first line of the song is this- "If your dreams have been shattered, pick up the glass".

The song is about carrying on and not being disheartened by what life throws at you, but that first line is what sticks in my head the most. I feel that this line sums up the band Death perfectly. They were creating a punk sound, before punk was punk. It was 1974 and Death were in talks with a record company about getting a deal. The record company loved Death's sound and some vinyls were printed, but there was a problem- the band name. But David, who came up with the band name, refused to change it and Death did not get a record deal. So everybody forgot about Death and their music tapes and demos got stored in an attic, not getting played. A few years ago, somebody stumbled across one of those ultra-rare vinyls and everything took off. There was a sudden buzz around the band and their album 'For the Whole World to See' was finally released decades after the songs were first recorded. The documentary 'A Band Called Death' goes in to a lot more depth than I have and if you have a spare few hours, it is worth watching if you are a music fan. 

But the reason I bring up this little musical story is because I feel it has changed my attitude towards my 'lolita lifestyle'. My designs may never get made, but I refuse to throw out those sketchpads. Then they are there, ready for a future me, who may or may not be able to do something more productive with them. My attitude now is to stop worrying about what others think about me and just do the things I love doing. So I have made some new plans for myself, to help satisfy that lolita lifestyle craving inside of me.

1. I am going to attempt to make some of my designs, with the intention of just doing it as a one-off item just for myself. I am not going to worry about selling my designs to the general public, but if somebody inquires about them, I will say that they are handmade and see where things go from there. That way I am not putting the pressure on myself to create and run an indie brand. I want to enjoy creating again and doing a little bit of sewing 'just for fun' could prove to be very satisfying.

2. If it turns out that I am quite good at making certain things, I may make a small handful and give them out to friends. I am already debating making Maki and Asuka gifts for when they come to the UK for DMC, but I think that may be too much! I haven't even finished my outfit yet!

3. I am going to expand my baking repertoire. At the moment my baking specialities are my infamous rocky road cookies (not to blow my own trumpet here, but these cookies are epic), my lemon loaf and sugar cookies. But I am known to throw in some rogue ingredients from time to time to come up with some new flavours. I like taking classics and putting new spins on them. Somebody I know happens to be friends with a former Great British Bake Off contestant who lives in the same town as me. She is always hosting food fairs and shows. My goal is to get her to sample some of my goods, so I am hoping to enter her competition at an upcoming show before the end of the year. There is a cafe in my town which sells cakes made by local bakers. I would love to eventually one day be able to sell my own cakes there.

4. I am going to buy some perfume bases and come up with my own range of perfumes (for personal use, rather than for going on sale). James was doing the washing up the other day when I got a whiff of the soapy bubbles. I had a sudden flash of inspiration and I came up with an idea for a sweet lolita inspired perfume. I am hoping to do something similar with classic and gothic lolita. Wouldn't it be fun to have lolita inspired perfumes? I know I did a post where I gave examples of perfumes that could suit the main lolita sub-styles, but I want something a bit more personal. These perfumes will be directly inspired by the fashion. And again, if somebody happens to smell it and compliments it, I will be more than happy to hand out the odd sample here and there.

I suppose that going forward I am feeling positive about my new lifestyle goals, but at the same time I am not putting pressure on myself. It is about having fun and enjoying trying new things, lolita-related or not. It just so happens that a lot of what I want to do could have possible lolita lifestyle connections. I don't know where my goals are going to lead me. Part of the fun is putting yourself out there and waiting to see what happens. So I guess my question is- do any of my readers have any goals they are trying to work towards? Is it something for yourself or are you aiming for a wider audience? No matter how big or small, I hope all of us are able to fulfill our dreams.

Apologies if I am rambling... 

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