Let's start with a game - larme kei, himekaji, or neither?
If you didn't notice, all of the above pictures are Liz Lisa (shop staff) coordinates. If you considered any of these to be larme kei or even neither, I think it should be pretty clear (if it wasn't already) that the brand shouldn't define the genre. Even if the hair and make up didn't fulfill the full genre requirements, I truly believe a number of the items in these pictures could be used in a decent larme kei (inspired) coordinate.
Mintkismet already has a blog post called "The Art of Casual Cute" which breaks down her interpretation of himekaji vs otome kei vs larme kei, so I don't want to step on her toes but I want to discuss a slightly different take on it, more specifically focusing on comparing/contrasting himekaji and the girly side of larme kei especially in regards to Liz Lisa items.
For some reason, I've seen it thrown around that there's this notion that all pastel (esp pink) outfits are not larme kei (and actually himekaji???) or that a pastel or neutral outfit would be greatly improved if only it included red or black. Or that if an outfit includes Liz Lisa items, it is automatically himekaji (and therefore not larme kei). I don't even feel like color is the most important aspect in determining larme kei outfit so I don't know why this is a thing. And outfits made of entirely Liz Lisa items have occasionally appeared/been featured in the magazine before, so this should also not be a determining factor imo.
To just push this point to its limits, here are examples of Liz Lisa items being used in Larme magazine -
From issue 006
From issue 008
From issue 015
From issue 016
From issue 017
From issue 018
From issue 020
Pastel/no-extreme-contrast-color-item outfit examples from Larme 015, 017 and 020 -
I've seen outfits that are deemed "too mature" by someone and then someone else says "not mature enough". These are clearly highly subjective. And what defines mature? Does mature in the larme kei context mean "sexy lingerie garter belt lace see-through"? It can, I guess, but much like the entire fashion genre, mature is really more of a "feeling". For some reason, pastels are immediately dismissed by some to be "too childish", but why is that? Why is black or brown or red typically seen as "mature" while pink or pastel blue or even lavender considered to be childish? Shouldn't the cut of the item matter more than the color? I understand that acids/neons might be a little out of range in some ways, but why is an all black pantsuit seen as more mature than one in a subtle shade of pink? I admit, I even have that seemingly implanted in the back of my mind.
My brief "history" with larme kei
If I'm really really really honest, my first impression of larme kei (probably because of just the SMALL slice of it that I saw) was that it was anything tacky, unflattering and fluffy/furry/pom pom. But I really didn't take much notice of it until the last 18ish months probably. I get very tunnel-visioned with my personal fashion and I will fully admit to not knowing outside trends. Since I wasn't very interested in it, I didn't look into it very much at the time, but when I wanted a little more inspo styling a certain few items I had purchased that were more outside of my comfort range, I started to explore my options and that's when I started taking a closer look into larme kei.
I liked that it was based on a magazine which would help me be able to get a really good idea of what defined the style because it's fairly straightforward. Essentially, larme kei = what's featured in Larme magazine. The brands/items used in many of the issues were already a bit familiar to me but reinvented/styled in a different way that I was used to which made it more interesting. Mitsu's Larme Magazine Introduction post also helped a lot. The 甘くてかわいい女の子 idea really resonated with me for some reason even though I wasn't completely sold on dressing in the exact style.
I wasn't ready to invest to paying 3x the base price of the magazine to ship it to myself internationally, but I did take the initiative to buy a few issues on my recent trips and felt like I was able to get a bit of a better understanding of the right type of "feel" for the genre even if I wasn't able to replicate it myself by studying the magazine content.
I have to admit, I've probably made plenty of misidentifying mistakes (re: larme kei, himekaji or neither) while tagging for the Liz Lisa tumblog in the last few years. It's because I didn't have a good understanding of the growing influence of Larme magazine and the larme kei genre outside of himekaji. But I've since taken the initiative to learn and review several issues of the magazine and feel a bit more comfortable with it. Certainly not an expert ofc, but just more of what the general feel of it is based on what's presented.
What this means for me/why am I writing this?
I've always felt pretty confident with my own personal sense of style and just wearing what I want to wear/enjoy wearing but recently I guess I feel like because I don't fit into a specific substyle and don't love the "rules" surrounding some jfashion genres, I feel like I can't contribute to certain groups. Here's the thing, I don't feel the need to belong to a group or strictly define a substyle for every outfit, but it would just be nice sometimes to be a in a substyle community for discussion purposes or even just a sense of belonging.
I'm lucky because I do have a great group of friends who all kind of have the same kind of interests as I do and I love talking about all kinds of things with them, but at the same time, I don't want to spam them with my outfits all the time and pressure them to give me concrit and feel like I could benefit from an outside point of view from someone who maybe has less bias towards me. Or even someone who has a bias against me?
I don't feel like I'm above criticism because, by all means, I know I don't always make the best fashion choices and sometimes it takes an outside perspective to make tiny tweaks to an outfit that might really enhance it, but like...I think some substyle boxes are just drawn TOO SMALL especially by international (outside Japan) comms. Or, and I kind of hate to say this, but I think some people might just have a warped idea of what defines certain genres, especially because western communities like to pick up specific aspects of styles and consider that to be everything.
More specifically for me personally...I feel like my current tastes are kind of skirting the line between himekaji, otona kawaii, the slightly cutesy part oneegyaru, the girly side of larme kei. I've always understood that keeping the "tags" on social media "neat" is important (especially because it would be a great resource for newbies if it actually only contained relevant or "good" content), but at the same time, is it really necessary to criticize some things in such a nitpicky way?
There was a scan from Popteen that I posted on Tumblr and tagged as both #gyaru and #larme kei even though it was largely styled to be like a "Larme"-ish shoot because I felt like some of the pieces could be used in a coordinate (with different make up) for any number of gyaru substyles. Someone really felt the need to reprimand me tagging it as #gyaru. And yet I'm almost certain that there are people who would also argue that it's also not #larme kei (even though no one directly said that to me). But I tagged as I tagged for inspo without really intending on stepping on the rules and yet??
I feel like my point of view certainly shouldn't be taken more seriously than anyone else's but I just see a lot of contradictions in some spaces and I just think about how ridiculous that is. It's hard because I do see both sides - the need for rules to help establish a genre and differentiate it but also the freedom to express your own personal style and still fit into a group of what could be considered people with similar interests. Even for himekaji, I feel like there are ways to create an "easily recognizable" himekaji outfit that will likely not be criticized or a "technically" himekaji outfit that has the right elements typically seen but being criticized for something really more inconsequential.
To kind of wrap this up and bring it back to Liz Lisa. Has the style of Liz Lisa items changed since the inception of the brand? Of course. Has there been a subtle shift even just in the last handful of years? I believe so, especially after taking a second look at some of the catalogs from 2014. And now that I personally have a better understanding of larme kei and the influence its had on trends, I see it more clearly applied to the way certain pieces are being designed and styled.
At the same time, a number of brands used in the spreads existed before the magazine did (since it only premiered in Sep 2012). There had to be something for the magazine to feature before it really started gaining traction and actually began defining trends. So I feel like, in a sense, the brands/designs helped originally build the magazine content but the styling is what's original about the larme kei style. That's what's defining the trends now - the combinations and different execution of certain items. Which is why I think it's so absurd to isolate some items from certain brands and instantly call them out to be "more himekaji than larme kei" because of the brand's history.
Mitsu has also recently written about Ank Rouge (originally traditionally thought of more as a himekaji brand) changing to more of a street larme vibe. Like I said, I'm not saying that this is what Liz Lisa is doing as well. I think it's clear that they're maintaining some of their "classic" himekaji style prints and silhouettes while also participating in what's currently trendy by creating their own version of popular items, and I don't really see anything wrong with that. I understand it's not for everybody (a lot of it isn't really my thing either), but that's okay!
Things that came to mind when I was thinking about the differences between style genres:
1. Would I consider this outfit himekaji/insert-other-genre-here had I not known larme kei exisits? Does that even matter considering it does exist now?Some of these are pretty straightforward to answer imo and some of them are kind of just for shits and giggles but maybe worth thinking about. Unless, of course, your answer to 6 is NO :)
2. Does every outfit featured in Larme (the magazine) count as larme kei?
3. If you are considering a flat lay of clothes & accessories, can the clothes/coordinate be larme kei without knowing how the hair and make up will be executed and would that change anything?
4. Okay, but what if Risa was wearing it?
5. How big a role does "intention" play? What if the wearer of the outfit (has awareness of the style genre but) doesn't consider their personal style to be larme-kei and voices that? Should it still be considered as such?
& really, 6. Does it even matter?
I'm not campaigning for Liz Lisa to be a "larme kei brand". That's not what I'm saying and I don't consider that true necessarily, but I'm just saying it shouldn't be instantly eliminated just because it is Liz Lisa and dismissed to be himekaji.
Honestly I'd be very surprised if there wasn't some disagreement with what I've written. But I'm open to it and I want to hear it! A lot of fashion is pretty subjective and especially for foreigners trying to insert themselves into Japanese fashion, there is some muddy-ing of definitons and "rules". Let me know what you have to say about it!
Huge thank you to Berri for contributing the examples of Liz Lisa items in Larme issues 006, 007, 008, 009, 012, 013, 016 and 018!