Japanese lolita brand Baby, the Stars Shine Bright celebrated its 30th anniversary last month with a tea party and fashion show showing off their designs of past and present. Baby, the Stars Shine Bright was founded in 1988 and the Alice and the Pirates started in 2004. The origin of ouji fashion is unknown, but I consider Alice and the Pirates the brand to popularize the style. Like all brands, the image evolved with trends throughout the years. Let's take a look at how the brand has changed over the years.
First we're taking a trip down nostalgia lane. These designs range from 2005-2009. When I first became interested in the fashion, this is the style that I fell in love with, so I'm quite fond of this era. Alice and the Pirates's original designer was Mitsuba (三叶). In the Baby, the Stars Shine Bright e-mook published in 2012, Hiroko Okumura (奥村浩子) and Tomomi "Cathy" Nakamura (中村友美) are listed as two additional designers. The mook states Okumura's 10th year with the company and that she was originally working on the BtSSB side and eventually switched over to AatP.
During this era, AatP's iconic looks were vampire and pirate themes. Cotton and velveteen were primarily the main textiles. The top hat was the essential hat with the occasional tricorn or bicorn released for pirate looks. Mostly everything was black and undoubtedly gothic. Red or bordeaux were also common to see with both gold and silver accents. The casual releases were also more punk inspired with many asymmetrical releases and use of bold stripes.
Mitsuba left Alice and the Pirates around 2013. Alice and the Pirates was recruiting new designers for at least a year. During the grey period, Cathy was bumped up to AatP's head and only working designer, so many pieces were re-releases with slight changes. There is a steampunk phase since steampunk became trendy very late in Japan. It is unknown when Okumura left the company though it is estimated shortly after Mitsuba left. It's during this shift that Alice and the Pirates starts looking a lot different.
Honestly, 2014 had nothing going for it. Their priority was just keeping the brand afloat. Ouji doesn't sell as well as lolita, so ouji was not at the top of the list. This year does introduce cuter elements such as ears and bow ties in more OTT ensembles. Alice and the Pirates starts to drift away from the pirate image with lighter themes. Navy makes a comeback. There's a lack of metallic trim they're most known for. They stopped using chains sometime in this era as well; probably because they broke very easily speaking from personal experience.
In 2015, the designs started taking more inspiration from fairy tale princes. I call this the start of AatP's classic ouji era. Velveteen is rarely used since it is more expensive to produce according to a statement one of Angelic Pretty's designers stated. The gold trim is back, but silver is nowhere to be seen. The
aiguillette becomes a common accessory with more military-inspired looks. Green and ivory are new colors for AatP.
In 2016, the collection mixes old and new themes. More blues are made. Purple is also new. The clown theme made a come back after not being seen since 2009 with the Y-Clown series. Pirates also make a comeback. The OTT standard is now fairy tale prince instead of edgy vampire lord. AatP starts using more textured fabrics like jacquard, gobelin, and tulle instead of just solids.
I talked about the 2017 fashion show collection in a previous post I wrote last year. This year primarily focused on textures with gobelin, tulle, fur, feathers, and chiffon. Prices definitely increased. 2017 was pretty lackluster.
Now we'll look at the new collection. Alice and the Pirates supposedly has 3-4 designers currently. These sets are slated for 2019 and will be up for reservation either late 2018 or early 2019.
Alice and the Pirates is definitely prioritizing classic and sweet ouji in light and bright colors. This is the most colorful collection of runway looks with not one black outfit in sight. The gaudy OTT stuff is probably in demand by the Chinese lolitas to match their multi-thousand dollar wedding dresses. The designs are very royal looking with epaulettes bringing slight militaristic feel. They are playing with more experimental hats. Flowing chiffon (butt)capes are trendy. Chains are seen again. Seeing is a full pink set is a strange feeling; if you told me Alice and the Pirates would release something pink 5 years ago I would have laughed in your face. I predict they're going to try to incorporate more prints.The two sets on the right probably cost an arm and leg and will be priced much higher than what most of the western community would be willing to pay. I don't completely hate it and I think this may be the comeback of AatP (hopefully).
Do you like how Alice and the Pirates has changed over the years? If you miss how it used to look like me, then get over it because it's gone. I highly preferred Mitsuba era designs, but I don't deny that the Cathy era brings a fresh palette of colors and themes to ouji style. In recent years, shirring is more common now accommodating more sizes. They still don't make salopettes in men's size, but at least pants are larger than 68 cm waists now. One can hope they release casual and goth items again. From 2004 to 2019, Alice and the Pirates is now 15 years old. Ouji style is evolving and it will be interesting to see how it will look in upcoming years.