As someone who owns at least 15 copies of The Gothic and Lolita Bible (GLB) I’m obviously devastated to hear the announcement today that the magazine will be suspended as of May 24th.
— Tokyo Fashion (@TokyoFashion) March 29, 2017
Lolita is still a growing subculture in the west, so we’re seeing constant growth and international sales and assuming this is enough to hold a niche publication together. Further to this, niche publications and print magazines are having a really big comeback and zine culture is flourishing here, so it would seem like a great ecosystem for something like GLB. Though I am incredibly sad about it, to be honest, I can see a number of reasons why The Gothic and Lolita Bible might fail.
1. The main market for the fashion has moved out of Japan
This article references the general change in atmosphere in Harajuku – fast fashion is in, Harajuku is a tourist district and people have generally moved to more wearable every day styles. The same thing happened with Gyaru. This sentiment is echoed by this article on Yahoo! Japan – and a translation provided by Abiba.C can be found on the Facebook group Rufflechat.
The point that I found particularly noteworthy is below:
However, at LaForet, business is booming on B1.5F [the lolita floor] and sales from April to September this year grew to 120% of last year’s. Foreign tourists are spending. Misako mentioned that she noticed the numbers of foreign lolitas are growing, “Chinese and Americans are really picking up on lolita. Especially the Chinese are buying in huge amounts, and they prefer lolita rather than gothic styles.” Until now lolita has been “buy in Japan, wear in Japan” which has shifted to “buy in Japan, wear outside Japan”. Also recently many new brands have cropped up in other countries, and local cultures have taken root. Lolita fans may bypass Japan entirely, i.e. “buy in China, wear in France”, so looking forward, Japanese fans may need to look overseas to buy items.
Misako herself said it, Chinese people are buying huge amounts of lolita. The brands know it too, hence why they’re producing special sets targeted at the Chinese market*. But you know what the Chinese market also has? It’s own print magazine – Girlism, which has previously had Misako as the cover star. Why bother to buy the GLB when you can have a magazine in your own language, with your own reader photos in it which also features the big names in the fashion from Japan?
The same can be said of the west. Though the appetite for the fashion is there, are readers really going to bother shipping the costly and heavy print magazine when they can just go to the instagram pages of their favourite models instead?
*As an aside, I’m not sure that Japanese brands have an accurate picture of western consumption as many of us use shopping services or friends in Japan to enable our purchases. I appreciate that my Chinese special set point isn’t the strongest piece of evidence as to the booming Chinese market vs the west, but I really don’t have the figures to work with.
2. The Gothic and Lolita Bible didn’t keep up with the times
— 深澤 翠 (@fukasawamidori) June 3, 2015
On the note of instagram, I can’t really find a notable online presence in general for The Gothic and Lolita Bible – but I am searching in English so the full results may not be available to me. People want to interact with their favourite publications and GLB seems to have missed this opportunity. You could say they’re retaining a classy image and keeping themselves old school deliberately. But, if we’re saying that the market is overseas then relying on your local print sales is a risky strategy.
Why would people read a print publication when they’re already connected online with their favourite models and brands? The primary content of The Gothic and Lolita Bible is previews of upcoming items and currently available items. In the digital age, this information is old news before it’s even printed.
Referencing the Yahoo! Japan article once more; it features a quote from Masumi Kano of BTSSB, on the changing nature of interaction with the fashion:
While lolita has gained a lot of normalization, its niche nature can’t be denied. Those fans are avid users of Instagram and Twitter. Using hashtags, users upload selfies of their daily outfits and label them #lolitafashion, which number about 320,000 uses of the tag.The surprising thing to note is the amount of overseas participation. Perhaps because of this, even Japanese users are using English language tags and interacting with lolitas outside Japan. “It seems that the gothic and lolita subculture is experiencing rapid expansion overseas. It may have to do with changes in consumer activity, but the leaders who dictate the direction of lolita style are changing”, commented LaForet. The birth of trends seems to have moved from the streets onto the web.
3. The culture of media consumption has generally changed
People want big, full width images on web pages and their phones. More than that, they want big, HD video. They also want it to be square, square is modern. Square video has a 28% higher engagement rate than regular video, which already generates up to 7 times more engagement than other types of content. GLB missed out on all of this.
Tokyo Fashion also noted KERA’s lack of uptake onto channels such as YouTube, where they could have made a notable impact.
One thing about KERA is that they have so many famous reader models, they could have started a popular KERA YouTube channel a few years ago.
— Tokyo Fashion (@TokyoFashion) March 29, 2017
I’d agree that while we treasure the GLB collectively, as a community, the actual style of the magazine was dated. Sorry GLB! The magazine had a lot of content, but often irritatingly small photos. That’s where Girlism, the Chinese counterpart, really succeeds. Readers send in large, studio quality photos featuring a variety of different styles and settings. The magazine prints them with four on a page, or one huge photo. This keeps the overall look and feel much fresher, with a greater variety of colours than one small area of Tokyo can offer.
How might the west “save” The Gothic and Lolita Bible?
Thank you, dear reader, for getting this far. It’s obvious that you care about this publication as much as I do. But, I have some bad news. We can’t save the GLB. It’s already gone. Through a mix of GLB’s own strategy decisions, the fact that loads of us didn’t buy it in the first place because we got scans online and plenty of other reasons I’ve missed – it’s gone. We can hope that some lolita fashion related content may move to the new online platform for KERA, but such information has yet to be announced. I would personally pay to access an online archive of the issues, but can’t see that happening either.
But what can we do instead?
1. We can continue to use our online communities
No doubt with GLB gone, brands will move their announcements and previews to their own social media and web pages. Metamorphose recently re-vamped their website to include a news section, so they may have known this was coming.
There are more Facebook groups, Tumblr blogs, YouTube channels and fashion communities than ever. Lolita news is constantly moving within the community. Brands could potentially even move into this space and start bringing their news into these groups.
To be honest, we’re keeping the news flowing ourselves anyway, there just won’t be any more posts from GLB to start the conversations.
2. We can support publications that already exist
There are a few publications that currently exist. As mentioned before, Girlism, from China. There is also The TPC Annual in the UK. I recall a zine project at some point in the past which gathered lolita themed artworks, also. So, one of our options is to put our money into the publications which exist currently lest they eventually suffer the same fate as GLB.
Another suggestion would be to implore KERA to feature GLB content in their new online publication, then actually pay for that content.
3. We can create or curate new media
As I said before, zines are doing really well in the west so there could be potential for a much smaller, less glossy publication at a lower price point and shipping cost. Honestly, I’ve even seen a zine for the way female fans dress at Liverpool and Everton football games. So it could totally happen. Though, the original Gothic and Lolita Bible did get printed in English for a while and we didn’t keep that going either. If anyone wants to take up that project, I’m in. But, know that it would quite possibly be a big labour of love with very little return.
There have been several attempts at moving lolita into a dedicated online community space including Lolita Amino and LolitaSnaps. Neither example seem to have had “mainstream” success – unlike Lolibrary and Lacemarket. Arguably, both Lolibrary and Lacemarket can be said to serve a unique purpose which is not filled by Facebook and provide great value to the community. You’re going to tell me that comm sales serves the same purpose as Lacemarket. They kind of do but there are enough differences between them and this is not a post about that. So, while there is potential for some kind of curated lolita experience, it would have to satisfy something that Facebook groups don’t. I think it would probably need a Japanese-speaker at the helm, too.
4. We can try and translate the original GLB to preserve and enjoy on the web
Another big labour of love that we could undertake as a community. While we can’t actually save The Gothic and Lolita Bible, we can ‘save’ it – as in preserve it. Translate as much of the content as we can, as we can get good scans for, and preserve it for others to enjoy for as long as the fashion exists. Moving the content to the web would also make it more accessible and searchable, which is also nice. It is possible that this job has been done already, but we could consider creating a dedicated space for it.
I don’t think the above suggestions really contain anything revolutionary. One of them is also already happening – though the way we share brand news may slightly change. Mostly, I just wanted to write about a publication which I love, and which I wish was just moving to digital rather the ceasing publication. I also think it’s a really interesting story about a magazine. If this topic interests you too, I implore you to read into the wider cultural changes surrounding J-Fashion which I linked in point 1.
Have I missed anything? Can you think of any further suggestions? I will try and update if I can! Please feel free to discuss this topic in the comments – and leave love notes for the GLB.