About halfway down Tatemachi, on the left hand side if you’re walking down from McDonalds, you’ll find the Belsel building. A year ago, no one knew the place existed. Now, it has become the centre in Kanazawa for one of Japan’s biggest counter-cultural movements – gothic lolita fashion.
‘Gothloli’, as it’s known, has been around in Japan in one form or another since the late 70s. Currently, the fashion has several sub-branches that mix gothic, punk and Victorian styles in various ratios, from the sweet lolitas in their pristine paniered skirts to the slashed, splattered and tattered rags of the guro goths.
While purists will argue that one should never mix brands, let alone styles, one of the things I like about gothloli gear is its versatility. A blouse from Baby the Stars Shine Bright can be worn to work just as easily as under a jumper dress. A skirt from h.naoto can be dressed down for an afternoon’s shopping and then dressed up for the following evening. Yes, you are talking to a (literal) closet convert.
The Belsel building is small when compared to the gothloli meccas in Harajuku, but it does have a fairly wide range of styles displayed on the first floor – the Alice in Wonderland cute of Angelic Pretty, the London-inspired punk of Super Lovers, and my personal favourite, the more elegant gothic lines of Black Peace Now.
Surprisingly, a lot of gothloli garments I’ve found will fit Western bodies, if only just. The clothes that are quite loose by design have plenty of room for those of us not built like matchsticks. As with all things branded in Japan, these clothes do not come cheap. Luckily, the first months of the year are the best time to buy anything gothloli as the stores discount all of the previous year’s stock — right now, Black Peace Now has three counters full of merchandise at 70% off the marked price.
Even if you’re not all that partial to the Japanese taste in fashion, the store racks are worth a look if just for the novelty value! You won’t find anything like it back home.
The Belsel building is located along Tatemachi St, next to the Lawsons combini. The stores within open for business at 10AM and close at 8PM.