Sunday, May 21, 2017

Ank Rouge sailor top/skirt set - Ailand purchase w/Mintkismet Shopping Service (review)

Even though Ailand (webshop for brands like Ank Rouge and Cecil McBee) isn't allowing customers with Tenso mailing addresses to make purchases, I'm still signed up for the mail magazine and saw something that piqued my interest! A top and skirt set ♡
http://ailand-store.jp/ap/coordinate/i/120100http://ailand-store.jp/ap/coordinate/i/120693
https://twitter.com/AnkRouge/status/854528434399203329https://twitter.com/AnkRouge/status/854528434399203329
The featured color combination was the navy (trim) top with the black skirt which was enough to make me click on the banner but when I found out it was also available in pink, I was 100% sold. I added both to my cart and tried to check out using my old account information just in case I could get through (idk may as well try, right?) but was blocked because of the mailing address.
I went to try 109net and FashionWalker as alternatives for buying the items but they either weren't available or didn't have the same set price as Ailand. Shopping services are usually my last resort because I like having more control over the things I buy (having the e-receipts/confirmation, charging on my own credit card, knowing when things have shipped out etc) but I decided that I really wanted this set if at all possible, so I thought about my options and contacted Danielle who runs Mint Kismet Shopping (review at bottom of post). By using her SS, I was able to get the items I wanted!

Off shoulder sailor top + Organza frill embroidery pleated skirt set -
These items complement each other quite well. The pink trim and ribbon of the top match nicely with the color of the skirt. The top doesn't have much of a waist/shape on its own so it's great that the skirt cinches in quite a bit. The length of the skirt is a bit longer than average for my comfort, but the open shoulder on the top balances it out enough.
with Liz Lisa 3D flower pumps + Liz Lisa cut cardigan & Liz Lisa candy pouchette -

with Material Girl faux leather jacket and Nine West ankle boots -
I wanted to take this set in two slightly different directions with the coordinate examples because I thought it would be too boring to just show two different light colored cardigans which obviously look fine with it. Ofc I love how sweet the set looks on its own with the soft color palate, but something really made me reach for the black jacket to have a harsh style and color contrast for interest. I think it can easily be worn both ways and would be great when you want something more cutesey and also a good choice when you don't mind just a little bit of edge.

Off shoulder sailor top in pink
肩あきセーラーTOPS
This top features a sailor collar with large rectangular panels in the front. There is a removable thin ribbon and a small keyhole detail at the neckline. The sleeves have elastic top and bottom hems and are meant to fall off shoulder. The material is very light and isn't completely opaque. I don't personally have any issues wearing just a nude colored bra underneath but if you are more sensitive to that, I would suggest a camisole. The top is a loose fit with vertical darts to give it shape.
with Liz Lisa candy sukapan and Liz Lisa many ribbon pumps -

with Swankiss denim skirt and Ank Rouge heart spindle platform sandals + Liz Lisa rose applique blouson -

with Liz Lisa bouquet stripe jumper skirt and Liz Lisa clear pearl sandals + Liz Lisa (Popteen furoku) ruffle tote -
As expected, I really love this top. Any time sailor collar and off shoulder can be combined, that's a recipe for success for me lol. The fit is nice and comfortable and the small bits of light pink detail fit easily into my existing wardrobe. I think it will work for different styles of outfits but I'll probably use it for sweet looks mostly. The material does wrinkle a bit easily, but it can be remedied with a quick steaming.

Organza frill embroidery pleated skirt in pink
オーガンジーフリル刺繍プリーツSK
This is an above-the-knee length, pink pleated skirt with "Be My Sugar" embroidered in gold on the waistband. There's a small ruffle detail on the top and bottom of the waistband. The material does have a bit of weight and wrinkles easily but feels like very nice quality. The pink color of the skirt matches closely with the pink detail on the sailor top, but is just slightly cooler which I think is due to the difference in material. 
with Ank Rouge lace blouse, Liz Lisa fur headband and Liz Lisa suede ribbon pumps -

with Swankiss heart argyle sleeveless top and Liz Lisa ribbon pumps + Liz Lisa frill denim jacket -

with Murua ruffle top, One Spo beret and Guess? mary jane pumps + One Spo reversible sukajan /MA-1 jacket -
I thought that the top would be the highlight of the order, but it is evenly matched with the skirt! I like it a lot more than I anticipated with it being just a solid color pleated skirt. I was a little surprised to find that there was no side zipper. There's just elastic in the back and it was extremely difficult to get it on my mannequin, but it does fit how I anticipated on my own body and is secure on my natural waist, so it's not a huge issue for me personally. This isn't a length or material of skirt I'm used to styling but it was fun to experiment and figure out what paired nicely.

Right after I received the items and tried them on, I was so excited to start coming up with coordinates for this blog post. I'm pretty happy with the result and looking forward to hearing your thoughts about it! I'm so pleased with the fit and the style of these items that if I was in Japan (or otherwise didn't have to pay for shipping), I would put some serious thought into also buying the other versions of the set! 
https://twitter.com/AnkRouge/status/857159688353439744https://twitter.com/AnkRouge/status/856350779275333632https://twitter.com/AnkRouge/status/857159688353439744
This is my first time trying to do braids for a blog post on my natural hair and even though they don't appear fluffy at all, I promised I tried and they're definitely not what I would consider "tight" braids. I honestly don't know how to to achieve the super loose braid look without the braids actually being loose and falling apart >.<. I had to be so careful with my hair because the ends were barely being kept looped in as is (and at a certain point, I just tucked them under, hoping they wouldn't show up in pictures). I suppose that when I see this hairstyle on shop staff or featured in a magazine, the models aren't constantly changing clothes and pulling tops over their head and doing 8 different outfits with that one singular hairstyle though. I guess that's the hard part about styling my hair for these posts - it's best if my hair can withstand several hours of changing clothes in humid weather lol. If anyone has any tips, let me know!

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Mint Kismet Shopping (service)
For the record, I met up with Danielle during my recent Japan trip, but I thought to use her SS of my own volition, completely unprompted, and I aimed to make review is as objective as possible. I did my best to separate my feelings about Danielle as a person and Mintkismet shopping service as a business.

Mint Kismet Shopping is run by Danielle, also known as @mintkismet on social media. She operates out of Osaka and accepts orders for in store purchases, auction sites as well as average online orders like mine. Read more about the different options and associated SS fees here.

Although we met in March and had chatted a bit about her shopping service, I hadn't asked her about any details regarding fees or how transactions are done. Her website covers all of that information and is easy to read and navigate. Each section is straightforward and included everything I needed to know to make my decision really easy.

The contact page lists the different ways to contact Danielle, and I decided to choose FB (Messenger) via the Mint Kismet Shopping page. I included all of the relevant information (like the links to the items I wanted to purchase, my shipping location, home currency etc) and asked for a quote. I also inquired about the possibility and cost of repackaging the items in a smaller package since I've noticed that in the past Ailand has shipped items in boxes that are unnecessarily large. It's likely not an issue within Japan but can raise the price for international shipping due to added weight.

Danielle responded with a cost breakdown based on the items I was interested in purchasing and told me there's no cost to repackage (something she often does to benefit the customer) except the price of the padded envelope - 108yen. This is quite reasonable to me and I know that I would save much more than just 108yen by having the items shipped in an envelope vs what is potentially a too large box. I was happy to move forward with ordering.

Timeline (dates are in HST)
April 13 -
Identified the items I wanted to purchase, tried to purchase myself and failed miserably
Sent Mint Kismet Shopping a message on FB to request quote
Danielle provides quote and we exchange PayPal information
Danielle accepts SS order
I send payment and specify details

April 14 -
Danielle confirms purchase of items

April 18 -
Danielle confirms receipt of items and sends picture
I request shipment
Danielle provides shipment & processing quote
I choose shipment method and make payment
Danielle ships package via Airmail method and provides tracking number

April 22 -
Items arrive!

Overall ratings
Communication - 5/5; Danielle always responded with 24 hours (often less when it was during Japan's typical waking hours). Since I used FB as my contact method, it was easy to use FB Messenger to communicate quickly and work out issues such a payment and shipping choice.

Price - 5/5; After getting the quote for the first payment, I didn't have to hesitate much at all. The SS fee for online shopping (10% of item cost) is fair for the service provided and payment is in USD which is easy for me. When I compare the overall cost to purchase the items via Mint Kismet Shopping with what I would have paid if I purchased the items myself and shipped via Tenso, I believe they are quite similar - differing by maybe $2-3USD. Tenso also has a "service fee" which is based on the weight of the item but would not repackage the items for me which I think is essential to keeping the total weight of the package lower.

Quality of service - 5/5; I felt confident that my order was being handled carefully and professionally. Danielle's answers to my questions were straightforward and contained all the information I requested. 

Shipping/packaging - 5/5; Based on this experience, I would give a 5/5 rating, but I think that if my timing was just a little off, and I didn't make the cut off for that week's mailing and had to wait 5-6 more days, I would have to lower the score by at least half a point. I'm personally relatively impatient knowing a package is just sitting around. I understand that it's not always practical to visit the post office every day, but a delayed ship date is something worth considering for me. Regardless, it would still be quite high because I like that Danielle was able to package and estimate shipping costs quickly and under the best circumstances, was able to get out my items and provide the tracking number on the same day. In comparison, Tenso would likely take 1 day to in-process the package/inspect. Even if I paid the same day I received the package arrival email, it still would not go out for at least 1 more business day after that. The fact that I even had the possibility of mailing the same day as package arrival is fantastic in my book.
The package itself was secure, and the items arrived in expected condition. The envelope Danielle used was padded and the clothes were wrapped in a plastic bag inside the envelope.
(The speed at which the packaged was delivered is not something within Danielle's control, but this is the first time I shipped with Air Mail and was pleasantly surprised to see that it arrived in 4 days.)

Recommend/Would use again? - Yes! Especially for buying from Ailand which I cannot purchase from myself and knowing that I won't have to worry about an awkwardly large box. Using Mint Kismet Shopping to make my purchase didn't exponentially increase the total cost of the transaction, and I was really happy with the service I received.

Tbh this is a good and a bad thing for me. Now that I know I have a reasonable method to buy from Ailand again, I may be visiting the webstore and making purchases more often. The "no Tenso address" policy was almost certainly saving me money by blocking me from buying. I will also be keeping Mint Kismet Shopping in the back of my mind as an option especially Osaka-limited in store purchases!
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