Gothic and Lolita fashion continues to influence global youth culture markets, but in the past, unless you knew Japanese, it was often a difficult subculture to completely understand because most books and magazines on the subject remained in their language of origin. Now, thanks to Tokyopop, publishers of arguably the most English-translated versions of manga comics in America, there’s the English translation of the original Japanese version of “Gothic & Lolita Bible,” or “mook” as in magazine/book. We talked with Tokyopop about the Gothic & Lolita Bible and just how well this English version is actually doing, which by all accounts, is flying off the shelves among those in the know.


Gothic and Lolita fashion styles, first off, are 2 distinct fashion looks (mashed together) that originated out of Japan that some say resemble a darker version of Little Bo Peep, or a sexier version of a cutsie doll or maid uniform. For the uninitiated, walking through the streets of Harajuku in Tokyo can seem otherworldly, mainly because of the girls wearing specific Gothic and Lolita fashion styles (or spin-offs including Sweet Lolitas, Punk Lolitas, Victorian Lolitas, Aristocratic Lolitas, Elegant Gothic Lolita (EGL), Elegant Gothic Aristocrat (EGA), subcategories such as Pirate Lolita, and so on). However the styles themselves cover a broad range, including the androgynous prince theme among Gothic Lolita guys, long ’40’s inspired coats, tights, full skirts with ruffles, corsets, arm warmers, thick platform boots, cloth umbrellas, bows, tiny top hats, kabuki-inspired make-up, and colors predominately in black, red, and pink.

Often misinterpreted as extreme Japanese street fashion with no real sense of reason (other than to be different), Gothic and Lolita style is really quite the opposite. According to Senior Editor Jenna Winterberg, and Contributing Editors Michelle Nguyen and Julie Taylor, the intention of the Bible was to introduce the roots of these fashion styles as a part of educating the masses about one of the most distinct fashion trends ever created -and which has gone on to inspire top couture designers such as Vivienne Westwood, Gaultier, Junya Watanabe, and Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons. There’s a strong historical and music aspect within the genre that over time has evolved into the Gothic and Lolita lifestyle from which fashion is a strong, identifying element.

To start, some say that the Lolita style was inspired by Russian author Vladimir Nabokov in 1955 from his booked called “Lolita” about an unspoiled promiscuous girl that was quite desirable. However Gothic Lolitas also say their styles stem even further back, according to the Bible, to the Victorian and Edwardian eras or “Belle Epoque” and the Rococo Movement during the 1730’s during the reign of Louis XV. This historical sensibility of the fashion was mixed with modern Japanese inspirations, such as rocker Mana of the band Malice Mizer who really put the style on the map and coined the terms Elegant Gothic Lolita and Elegant Gothic Aristocrat (to be clear, Gothic and Lolita is not just a girl-thing although girls tend to adopt the styles more readily). In addition, the rise of Visual Kei bands or fashionably forward emo-metal bands in Japan (see Label Networks’ stories on the musicians) in the late ’90’s also gave a boost to such extreme styles, namely the birth of the Gothic version of Gothic Lolita. You could say, from an American perspective, that Emily Strange borrowed heavily from the Gothic Lolita tradition, which Hot Topic among other brands and retailers simply pounced on when seeing the rise in popularity of such fashion styles among young, usually misunderstood, highly creative, and independent people.

The Gothic & Lolita Bible is so thorough, it even starts off with a perforated pull-out pattern in case you want to make your own outfit. It goes deep into the history of both Gothic and Lolita trends and the mash-up in Japan of the two, then lists the top Lolita brands and websites both in Japan and the United States to acquire clothes and accessories from, such as Moi-Meme-Moitie, Metamorphose, Baby, the Stars Shine Bright (a.k.a. BTSSB), and Takemoto Novala.

In typical Japanese style, the oversized mook is packed with great street fashion trend photos of guys and girls in and around Harajuku with bubble-graphs of each person explaining their style, inspiration, favorite brands, age, occupation, and blood type (it’s a Gothic Lolita thing)

There are loads of in-depth interviews with top Gothic and Lolita designers, an entire accessories section, how to make your own clothes area, a quiz (to determine your own Gothic Lolita style), a breakdown of what your bloodtype means about you according to the theories of psychologist Furukawa Takeji, and a great interview with Makoto Takahashi, a pioneering illustrator of shojo manga, and author Novala Takemoto.

In case you’re in need of a historical “princess” for inspiration, there are profiles of Marie Antoinette, Elisabeth of Bavaria, Grace Kelly, and Princess Diana. There are J-rock band interviews, designer interviews, and then, it all wraps-up with a manga comic (to be read backwards of course) called “Till Dawn” by Asumiko Nakamura.

Overall, the mook completely immerses you into the labyrinth of Gothic and Lolita lifestyles, from fashion and the DIY movement, to the history with meticulous attention to detail, plus a where-to-buy guide, key websites, designers, musicians, and other sources -all done with incredible sensitivity to the genre itself. As the Tokyopop people explained, they were very aware that “defining” such a subculture within an English translation version could cause serious backlash among hardcores if not done precisely and with due respect.

The Gothic & Lolita Bible has achieved its goals and you can expect another edition to hit discreet bookstands soon.

To see images of Gothic and Lolita fashion styles from Label Networks’ street reporters in Harajuku, please contact info@labelnetworks.com about the Premium Global Youth Culture subscription.

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