Welcome to the largest Q&A we've done yet!
Baby, the Stars Shine Bright is one of the most popular Lolita brands the world over, and one of the founding brands of the Sweet Lolita style. The release in 2004 of the film adaptation of Kamikaze Girls (Shimotsuma Monogatari), which featured the brand and its clothing heavily throughout, brought in an entire new generation of fans from both inside and outside Japan. Alice and the Pirates is a second brand from the company that focuses on darker Gothic and pirate-themed clothing, allowing for new designs that wouldn't fit under the original BTSSB brand.
Below, five of the company's designers from both brands give us their answers to the questions you've been dying to ask! This is a big one, so we'll be posting it in two parts!
BABY, THE STARS SHINE BRIGHT
ALICE AND THE PIRATES
Many of the questions below came from you! If you'd like to be involved in our next Q&A, watch our blog for future announcements!
Q. Tell us your life story – when did you know you wanted to become a Lolita designer, and how did you actually become one?
UEHARA: My mother used to make my clothes when I was a child, which might have influenced me. I've loved drawing pictures and making things since I was small, so I had already decided to be a fashion designer when I was in elementary school.
Then I met “Lolita fashion” some years later, which stole my heart, so I went to fashion school and studied very hard to be a Lolita fashion designer.
At that time, I met “BABY” and sent my resume to work for the company.
However, I was refused since the company was too small, run only by the president and the vice president at that time, to hire another person.
So, I decided to have my own brand and started to sell my clothes by myself.
After about one year, my clothes were introduced in a magazine and the president of BABY saw it. I received a phone call from him and he asked, ”Would you like to become a BABY designer?” That was the time my life as the designer of BABY started.
KANOU: Since my mother liked lovely clothes and that influenced me, Lolita style was always my style when I was small so I never considered any other choice.
Therefore, there was no special cause like from when, in order to wear my favorite lovely clothes all the time, I started to think it would be the best to be on the side of making clothes.
While I was buying Lolita brand clothes when I was in school, there were not many brands like now nor many kinds, so to avoid having the same look as others, I always made my own headwear.
At that time, making my favorite things with my feeling and being able to wear what I liked made me so happy. Then later, I studied at a university that had a fashion department and became a designer of BABY.
TACHIBANA: When I was in junior high school I met BABY, and around that time I started to become a designer. I went to the fashion design school and I started to work as an assistant at BABY at first.
MITSUBA: I had been interested in Lolita fashion since I was a child, and then I was hired as a shop staff at BABY then I became a designer.
NAKAMURA: I love classic ballet outfits and the concept of it seems very similar to Lolita, and also being able to wear Lolita clothes in daily life impressed me, I started to work as a shop staff and then I became a designer.
Q. Do each of you have different design specialties, or do you all have basically the same roles as designer?
UEHARA: At BABY, since each of the four designers have characteristic tastes, depending on the theme at that time, the area of strength is decided by individual expertise.
Original prints are assigned to all designers. Other than that, I design the orthodox/mainstream clothes. (For example, the standard style everyone says “this is the BABY style” that's made of solid color cotton material with torchon lace.)
I also design all shoes, bags and parasols.
KANOU: Baby decides the role of design based on the strength of the individual designer. I am allowed to design classical style and princess motifs most of the time.
Due to having different designers we would be able to propose many lovely products with various viewpoints, and I think we could provide more happiness to customers.
TACHIBANA: Fundamentally, all the members can design every item. However, since each of us has a preferred genre, the role has been decided each time, even for original prints.
MITSUBA: In PIRATES, I decide the schedule for a design and assign the roles for each. I do mainly design all items including original print series.
NAKAMURA: I design the items assigned from Mitsuba. I also design head accessories, hats, and bags in many cases. Although this is not designing, I generally decide the name of original prints, too.
Q. Do you wear the clothes you've designed in everyday life? Or at least Lolita clothing in general?
UEHARA: I wear BABY every day!! I usually wear dresses designed by myself but I also wear dresses that are designed by the other designers. It is because I love BABY, and BABY's dresses carry love from all designers♪
KANOU: I mainly wear BABY, but also wear other brands' clothes. I enjoy my favorite Lolita fashion every day. Since wearing is also my learning experience, I make my efforts in daily fashion too.
TACHIBANA: I wear the clothes I designed, of course. I also wear the clothes I think are great, and the clothes I can pour my love into.
MITSUBA: Although I wear the clothes I designed in many cases, if I like the design, I also wears clothes other than Lolita fashion.
NAKAMURA: Although I wear many clothes of PIRATES fundamentally, since I am very curious, I enjoy various fashions that make me feel like becoming another person.
Q. How does it make you feel when you see someone else wearing one of your designs?
UEHARA: I feel very glad when I see that by chance and I say in my head, "Thank you!". Sometimes I follow them a little bit (lol). I feel really glad that someone liked and paid his/her money for the clothes I designed.
KANOU: Although it is difficult to express with words, while many people have various tastes and diversions, I feel fortunate to know the customer felt kawaii the clothes I thought kawaii. This means the customer and I shared the same kawaii feeling.
TACHIBANA: It touches a deep emotion. Regardless of old or new, when I see someone wearing my design, I feel glad to know the clothes are liked and cared about by the customers.
MITSUBA: I feel very happy. In many cases, I use their color selection and coordination as a reference.
NAKAMURA: I feel very very fortunate. It is very impressive that beyond country or language, I could feel the relationship between the customers and myself.
Q. What is your favorite print or design, whether designed by you or someone else?
UEHARA: Since I have been working at BABY ever since BABY announced their first original print, I have memories of all prints and I love all of them intensely, it is very difficult to choose only one! If I'm forced to choose, I may like the early Cinderella design.
It was the first princess pattern original print and it has been ten years since it was made, it is still my favorite so it's pleasing to wear.
Moreover, there was much demand for reproduction of the Cinderella design, and since I also wanted to handle it once again, the 2nd phase of the Cinderella design was sold two years ago.
Other than prints, ROBE A LA FRANÇAISE, the CINDERELLA ONE PIECE, and the ELIZABETH ONE PEICE which Shimotsuma Story (“Kamikaze Girls”) also used are my favorites.
Although ELIZABETH ONE PIECE was made for a show, since the director and the stylist of “Kamikaze Girls” liked it and used it for the movie, that made me feel very happy.
And of course MARIE too♪
KANOU: I have deep intense feeling for all of our prints so all are my favorite, however, since the "Fragrant Rose Memories" design was the print I had the challenge of creating an original image we had never had before, I have a special feeling for it.
Other than prints, I have an intense feeling to the "SHOOTING STAR A-LA-MODE DRESS” very much.
This was the dress in which I imagined the princess of a shooting star that was announced during the fashion show of the tea party held at Chinzan-so in October last year. It combined the cloth of three different colors and designs that became the original and gorgeous dress that you never see anywhere else.
Since it was a color tone that does not have much familiarity to the sweet atmosphere BABY has, and the design was also a very aggressive trial that made me work very hard, I like it very much.
Actually making something real that I never thought of before makes me feel more and more possibilities of wonderful designs that I could make in the future.
TACHIBANA: It is the CLAUDIA THE FAIRY TALE PRINCESS dress. This is the dress I specially designed for the large-scale tea party held the first time. I think that the delicate and transitory princess in a fairy tale was expressed. This is my favorite one.
MITSUBA: Since I love Alice in Wonderland so much, "Hide-and-Seek with missin' ALICE" is my favorite.
NAKAMURA: I like "Poison de Lamour" which used Romeo and Juliette as the motif. I like the antique tone pink color on it very much.
Q. How do you decide what the season’s “theme” will be? Do you follow general fashion trends, or something else?
BABY: We decide the theme that we believe is lovely and makes us feel as the same feeling as the customers. In addition, we also focus on the trends and customers’ opinions.
A&P: We decide themes with the trends and customers’ opinions.
Q. What is the process for designing a print, and how do you decide which specific inspirations to draw from? For example, do you read fairy tales or look at European art? How do you come up with the idea for a print?
BABY: We get inspiration from various familiar things such as books, movies, fine arts, and the same fashions. Many things such as colors, forms, and more are also chosen from those. These days, along with the theme, we make tales. We create the original great world of BABY not just by putting a cute motif in order but also by considering the background stories.
A&P: The idea is produced from various things such as great things found in town, or books that took our eye in the bookstore. Recently we often see picture-books too!
Q. Relatedly, how do you decide which colors to release a series in? Are there certain colors that just sell better in Japan or is it more about what fits the print?
BABY: Speaking of BABY, pink, sax, bordeaux, and black are the main colors, but along with the image of the print at that time, we create new colors or extra colors.
A&P: It's decided depending on the image of a print. We look at the total color scheme and try to have a different atmosphere with each color.
This concludes part 1 of our Q&A with Baby, the Stars Shine Bright's and Alice and the Pirates' designers! Watch for part 2 just as soon as we can translate and post it, in which the designers will go into more detail about individual prints, how they feel about Kamikaze Girls' portrayal of the brand, and some more of their favorite things!