Two years ago I purchased a ticket to attend a lolita event in Brussels called Imperial Garden. It would bring a beloved brand, Baby, the Stars Shine Bright, to Europe as the guest of honour. Many organisers, faced with the realities of 2020, decided to cancel or indefinitely postpone their events, this was not one of them. Whilst Imperial Garden did not go ahead in Brussels, it rescheduled from May 2020 to May 2021 and took place online.
Holy Trinity, who organised Imperial Garden, did a fantastic job in translating an in-person event to an online one. This absolutely deserves to be acknowledged because it is a difficult task. Especially as lolita events in Europe don’t typically follow the panel format that Bay Area Kei and Rose Foret have championed since spring last year. All ticket holders could get a full refund, if they did not choose to attend. Those who still did received a partial refund (half price) and the ticket split of regular and VIP remained. This time, instead of goodie bags or discounts, the VIP perks included early access shopping or event exclusives, as well as access to restricted points of the programme.
The event scheduled for May 2020 was due to include designers from Baby, the Stars Shine Bright and Alice and the Pirates, as well as Enchantlic Enchantilly and Vierge Vampur. Imperial Garden 2021 still included BtSSB/AatP and Enchantlic Enchantilly, as well as Mr Tani Takuma, a singer who enchanted the attendees with a performance. Whilst Vierge Vampur was unable to join as a guest, they still took part as a vendor at the event, along with: Lief, Violet Fane, Le Petit Four, My Inspiration, and Trip in the dream.
As a holder of the VIP ticket, I was able to attend the entirety of the event’s programming. This included the performance by Mr Tani Takuma, but also the Q&A session with BtSSB/AatP and a scavenger hunt over lunchtime. With the move to an online format the number of attendees dropped to a comfortable 40 in the Zoom call. This was enough to make the event feel large and welcoming, yet still intimate enough to accommodate casual chit chat.
Very fortunately Imperial Garden avoided technical difficulties. This is always a worry and something that no-one can control. Nonetheless, it made the 4.5 hour event run more smoothly. And considering how attendees were joining from all over the world, this made a real difference. We were able to enjoy spending time with the guests instead of progressively getting more Zoom fatigued.
The enthusiasm from the Enchantlic Enchantilly corner kicked the event off on a high. From the kira kira effects on their background to the enchanting performance of Mr Tani, the smiles and love they extended to us all the way from Japan warmed everyone. In answer to a question, Kawamura-san and Tenchou-san admitted to have learnt Instagram live during lockdown. Whilst these are in Japanese, they invited everyone to join and observe. They love knowing that Enchantlic Enchantilly’s designs are loved globally!
The team of guests comprised Baby designers Kano Masumi and Tachibana Saki, Pirates designer Cathy-san, and BtSSB HQ shop staff Haru. They each held a mascot, Usakumyas for Baby staff and Captain Chris for Cathy-san, which I thought was adorable! They also wore prints which they previewed to us, that were available for early preorder for the VIP attendees. For Alice in Wonderland fans, there is definitely something very exciting coming soon! I strongly suggest putting some money aside now.
But more interestingly, the Q&A with the guests included questions submitted by the event attendees. Amidst the usual glimpses into the production process, we got to learn all kinds of interesting tidbits. Some of them were predictable, for example, when asked to compare their brands to sweets, Baby staff unanimously said cake. On the other hand, Cathy described Alice and the Pirates as chocolate, while Haru compared AatP to a whisky bonbon.
The less predictable bits were a questuon about including pockets in their designs. The answer was that they will consider it – but only when pockets would not interfere with the overall design. Which to me read more on the side of “no”, but I am open to surprises. There are also no plans for opening a European branch again, though they were happy that people want one. And plus size lolitas should look forward to more designs “with shirring” (the designers didn’t specify, but they seemed to imply full-body shirring), including some in the near future. I wrote a more extensive transcript of the Q&A on my blog, which you can find here.
Imperial Garden finished like most online events do: by taking a group photo or, more accurately, screenshots including everyone. Guests awarded their best dresser prizes and afterwards the organisers turned to the raffle where everyone won something. We once again reiterated our desire to meet in person for the next event, which will hopefully not be long. And I hope to speak for everyone when I say that we would all love to attend another event organised by Holy Trinity.
Imperial Garden satisfied our collective itch for something fancy and social. Moreover, I think the online format excelled at allowing more interaction with the guests. Regardless of language skills or shyness levels, anyone could post something in the chat and receive an immediate response. During in person events shyer people don’t always come up to say something. And unlike some online events that I have attended, I did feel like all the guests were excited to engage. Some of them have never been to Europe, so hopefully next time they will be able to visit and experience European hospitality in person. We are waiting to greet you!
29-year-old Capricorn, Polish-born, UK-based and in love with Japanese fashion (predominantly Lolita). I enjoy a good bargain, OTT coords, cats and baking, and when in Japan I’m a self-confessed purikura addict. When I don’t blog, I work in the education sector, overseeing international exchange programs, and sometimes I get to do some exciting freelance translations on the side.
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