I’m 23 and have been into lolita since I was about 15 or 16, when I found an article on the gothic website Morbid Outlook about gothic lolita. It was full of street snaps of girls in old school “goth-loli” with heaps of Moi-Meme-Moitie and Alice Auaa – and I was hooked. I spent ages researching it all online, finding out everything I could – there was a lot less information back then! I got more and more interested in it, and decided to start saving to go to Japan because I wanted to buy my first brand in-store.
I did go to Japan, and over the 2009 – 2010 New Year I stayed there for a month, exploring and shopping and generally just falling deeper and deeper in love with all kinds of Japanese street fashion. This time last year in 2011 I had the idea for my store Tokyo Hardcore, which was to be able to give people the same experience of being able to walk into a store and buy things in person which I love so much, and I have been running that ever since.
That’s wonderful that you got to really absorb the experience and kick around Harajuku for a while. So, what inspires your Sugar Freedom label?
My main source of inspiration for Sugar Freedom is pop culture: the culture we as international lolitas have built around ourselves online. Whether it be on egl, Tumblr, Facebook, wherever. We have such a vibrant, creative visual culture but we’re often to busy looking to Japan for ideas that we forget we have our own ideas too.
Tumblr especially has been one of my biggest influences since you have this constant feed of images to inspire you, that’s why my first print is called ‘Reblog’. It’s a kind of parody, kind of a homage to the impact it has had on my creativity and my experience as a lolita. In general, I think lolita is all about fantasy. Gothic lolita is the fantasy of cathedrals and graveyards and vampires; classic lolita is the fantasy of being a Victorian or Rococo lady; sweet lolita is the fantasy of tea parties and ponies and cupcakes. Instead of one of these, I want to portray modern lolita life as it actually is, because I think in its own way that it’s just as beautiful.
Saccharine’s Instagram shows her cute punk style – fluffy pink hair with black spikes, her PRINCESS knuckle tattoos and a fashion sketch of upcoming print Reblog!
How did you pick the name Sugar Freedom?
The name I’ve been using online for the last few years is Saccharine Darling, which was actually the name for the first lolita collection I designed for a school assignment while I was studying fashion. The collection wasn’t made, but I then used the name as my stage name when I entered in the 2010 Miss Alternative Australia competition and it kind of stuck. I loved the idea of saccharin because it’s an artifical sweetener which if you have too much of it can poison and kill you. So the contrast of sweetness and something more edgy and dangerous was very appealing to me and my aesthetic. Sugar Freedom is kind of a play on that, being ‘sugar-free’ just like saccharin but with the added element of freedom, freedom of expression, freedom of creativity, freedom of ideas.
What kind of motifs are you interested in working with?
Right now I’m loving the idea of cell phones, they’re so symbolic of our connection to everything. My second print should include cute pastel cell phones as part of the print, I’m really excited. I also love unicorns, mermaids, makeup containers, Victorian clip art, crosses, galaxy prints, hearts, tea cups, shoes, studs, kittens, bones, aliens, text and glitter. Overall there’s a lot of pastels contrasted with blacks, a lot of everyday things but put into the context of being something artistic, something more than what you might think of them usually. Kind of like how Andy Warhol turned images of soup cans into pop art, I want to turn everyday things like hair curlers and contact lens cases into pop-loli.
Saccharine in fellow Australian brand “We’re All Mad Here”: Sugar Bones collection
Sounds great – especially the cell phones! We’re seeing so much cute culture indie design booming in Australia – why do you think that is?
I think it’s partly because we’re so far removed from the rest of the world, and our population is very small. Australia has a very similar physical size to America but our population hasn’t even hit 23 million, while America’s is nearly 312 million. Our communities, while big for how few people in our country, aren’t as big as others overseas so we live online a lot more, which leads to us being inspired by a much wider range of influences outside lolita.
I mod an Australian lolita designer group on Facebook where we share ideas, tips, resources and support. We have 11 members, the majority of which have commercially active labels. If anyone is interested they are: Vitae Clothing, We’re All Mad Here, Marguerite in Strawberry Skies, Miss Kittiness, Petticoats and Gallantry, and Rouge Aerie Designs. It’s cool, because you’d think with so many niche designers together, people would fight over who had what idea first, that kind of thing, but they’re all wonderful, positive and creative girls, all with their own completely unique vision and a great attitude. We believe the best way for someone to win, is for everyone to win. We do what we can to help each other. Vitae Clothing and We’re All Mad Here are based in Adelaide with me and when we’re not busy or travelling we like to catch up once a week for dinner, share progress, talk about ideas, that kind of thing. We’re great friends, I wouldn’t be able to do this without them.
When can we expect to see Sugar Freedom hit the scene?
I have a lot of commitments and work outside of Sugar Freedom which have unfortunately been taking up a lot of my time recently, but I’m hoping to have the first prototype ready by mid-July, end of July at the latest, and opening the reservation at that time too. After the first print is up for reservation I’ll start working on the second one, and I hope to have a new print on offer every couple of months. Fashion moves fast, and I intend to do my best to keep up with it. Everything is being manufactured here in Australia as well, and it makes me very happy that we can do that to support other local businesses, I really believe supporting the people around you is important because then they’ll support you too and everyone is better off.
print sample still work-in-progress
Can you give us a sneak peek into the first debut collection for Sugar Freedom?
Well the first print is as I mentioned above called ‘Reblog’ and is an ode to the life of a Tumblr lolita. There will be three colourways, black, pink and lavender, and will come as a skirt, a jsk, headbows and matching tights. I’ve been obsessed with tights forever – I have two overflowing drawers full of them at all times – so designing them has been a lot of fun. ‘Reblog’ features cats, unicorns, nail polish, bones, jewellery, pastels and all the things that makes me love the pastel/kawaii/grunge/goth/
I also have some cool news, in that every single one of my prints will be completely machine washable, no dry cleaning or panicking about it getting wet necessary! I hate washing my brand, you have to be so careful your prints don’t run, so it makes me very relieved people won’t have that problem with my dresses.
You mentioned kawaii grunge, which is coming up on Tumblr as the new kawaii inspired subgenre.What’s your opinion on lolita off-shoots or related styles like fairy-kei, lolita punk, pastel goth, and kawaii grunge?
I think they’re fantastic, so much genuine creativity and experimentation there, which is the life’s blood of every fashion subculture. Lolita became the thing we know and love today because girls and boys just like us played around with it, experimented with it, found new ways of expressing themselves through it. In Japan there’s a lot less concern for getting something done ‘perfectly’, there’s much more of a focus on doing it ‘well’. Look at crew (Victoria’s note: ankle socks, for Americans) socks, they used to be seriously taboo but now they’re a must-have item. Things change, if you want to wear the old school stuff that’s fine, and if you want to mix it up with something new that’s fine too. For me, and for many other people too I expect, lolita is a deeply personal thing and no one has the right to tell you what to do in it, you are your own princess and in charge of your own lolita experience.
You also run Tokyo Hardcore, which has some indie designers in its ranks. Do you plan to add more indie designers, and are you interested in connecting Tokyo Hardcore with Sugar Freedom?
I sure do, this store started intending to be all about making brand more accesible to Australia and other countries outside Japan, but I’m changing the focus to being equally on brand and the international designers, and I’d love to have designers from all over the world eventually. The quality and work of international designers in many cases is on par with that of brand, they just lack the infrastructure or knowledge or opportunity to move their businesses to the next level, and that makes me sad. New designers in fashion subcultures all over the world move up to being big names all the time, but because of the way lolita is structured and viewed it’s very hard to accomplish. I know so many amazing designers who just can’t seem to get a break, and I’m committed to help change that however I can.
As for the relationship between Tokyo Hardcore and Sugar Freedom, they will always be entwined because they’re both done by me, and Tokyo Hardcore will be the main stockist both online and instore for Sugar Freedom. But I will be operating it as a separate business which I fully intend to get in stores all over Australia and eventually the world. I truly believe that with hard work and positivity a person can accomplish anything, so that’s what I’m going to do.
Reserves for Sugar Freedom’s first print, Reblog, opens July 1st!
Keep up on the latest Sugar Freedom news at: