As I sat here preparing the event report from our ugly sweater year-end party (you can read it here) I started thinking about the #supportLIPS fund, how it has been revamped/ organised, and how much more ecstatic I am to keep on this course. I honestly have no idea how my idea of saving for a private tattoo studio turned into going full throttle for my dreams of having a (forever) kawaii hub in DC, but I can’t say that I am mad at it either. ;-D (So sorry, not sorry for the heavy reading ahead ;__;)
2016 is already eventful where my first order of business was to make sure I made good on my word of giving DC KawaiiStyle an official cyber home until we can make our forever kawaii home happen!
Now allow me to rewind for a minute to where Kawaii started popping up more frequently in DC.
2014, A Start to Kawaii in DC
International Lolita Day & Fashion Walk, June 2015
It’s hard to think that only three years ago, I put together DC Metro Lolitas (with the help of fellow lolita Cassie and the support of a few friends) and it is growing beyond belief. ＊Note: main comm is accessible via Facebook＊ My pride in that lolita community, unlike so many, is that we govern the community (overseen by myself and my good friend Simone [insert shameless plug] shop Simone’s brand, Mahou Monie) by our negative experiences in lolita hoping that our community members don’t have to experience such things. There is little to no drama and members are free to explore their own interests in lolita. Of course meet-ups happen and there’s lots of tea throughout the year. 😀
From that, Simone and I had dreams of an overall kawaii community (not just specific to Lolita) where people could talk J-fashion, share kawaii events, and make friends with similar interests around the city. We also wanted to find ways to touch the Black community with J-fashion and kawaii culture. In 2014, I was given the opportunity to teach an arts and crafts class, specifically to at-risk youth, at Randall Community Center. I decided to test the response of how youth felt about learning kawaii culture through arts & crafts and D.I.Y. and to my surprise, it was a MAJOR success! DC artist, Alicia Cosnahan (also known as Decoy) visited and brought some of her girls for a joint session (or a few hehe) and anime artist Niko visited to help the girls design their own fabric and talk kawaii.
Later came the idea, #KAWAIIindaHood (Kawaii In Da Hood), where
I we (I’ll be sure to introduce you to #KAWAIIindaHood co-founder later) would focus on teaching kawaii D.I.Y. to inner city youth. The goal of this is to give inner city (what most label at-risk youth) a chance to create and understand that they can transcend their circumstances. Once labeled at-risk, I want to be able to use my life (upbringing, circumstances, gifts, and my trade) as an example to help youth who are negatively labeled understand that they are greater than their stereotypes.
Hopping behind this passion, I started centring all of my arts and crafts classes at Randall around the #KAWAIIindaHood philosophy. Again, my kids had absolutely no complaints. I ran the idea past a few friends and there we have it! (Fast forward a bit) What I did not know is that I would gain a business partner in all of this. Terra (a #supportLIPS team member, kawaii do-gooder, and founder of Kawaii Bakes) decided to step up becoming my right hand woman. Her dream is to take this outreach part further (as we grow, of course) and move it into a non-profit sector and full-fledged, year-round program. *eek!*
OK! (rewinding a bit now haha) Before meeting Terra, I had the opportunity last year to teach a D.I.Y. class at E.L. Haynes for their Wellness Day. I wasn’t too sure what I wanted to do but I wanted something fun and kawaii. Playing on Kaila’s site, I came across her kawaii D.I.Y. and thought that’d be perfect! Let’s start with DOMO-kun, the NHK mascot. There’s more on the D.I.Y. day here. I was so pleased to know that all students voted our class the best for Wellness Day 2014. *so honored you guise*
2015, Steps to A Kawaii DC
This year, I started taking my kawaii aesthetic in tattooing a bit more serious. I don’t do it for anyone else, but me because it feels good! <3 Also, I noticed that the more creative and outside the box I became, the more it encouraged customers to open up and explore some cool ideas in art. Some of them touched their inner most kawaii in ways that I can’t explain. But there has been a bit of empowerment in tattooing through a kawaii filter, for both myself and customers.
＊Please stop by #supportLIPS blog tomorrow for my Tattoo Tuesday post about 2016 tattoo styles＊
So now clients are curious about kawaii and we have started touching the community a bit at a time but we would like to touch more – all ages, those who may know about kawaii, those who may have interest in kawaii, etc – on a regular basis. But personally, I would like to work with youth more, explore art therapy and how kawaii art fits into the fold. I would like an art gallery that focuses (mostly) on kawaii art. I would like a private tattoo studio where I can creatively explore this idea of kawaii with other curious clients. I would like to find some way to put this all together~ *bazinga!* I would like to work towards a private tattoo studio and kawaii culture hub, focusing on (kawaii-style) tattoos and other non-traditional arts.
(☝︎) my ideal space would house …
Unfortunately, I cannot do this all by myself. In truth, it’s probably the craziest dream I’ve had. I have to keep my trips to Japan going so that I build clientele (remember consistency is key) and I have already given up shopping and skimmed down on most of my other expensive hobbies. How else would I find revenue?! To help make ends this past April, I started my Go Fund Me with a goal of $10,000. It was going very well for about 2 months and then I hit a wall. In someone’s honest feedback, they shared that it doesn’t seem that these two ideas go together. Another said they weren’t interested because they know tattoos but not kawaii. Others knew about kawaii but were not interested in tattoos. So how to make these connect?! How do we promote kawaii in DC? >.<
The Birth of DC KawaiiStyle
Maybe first we can circle back to create a platform specifically around for introducing to- and promoting kawaii culture in DC. I talked with Terra and Simone about this idea. All agreed and the parent to #KAWAIIindaHood is born, DC KawaiiStyle.
※WHAT is DC KawaiiStyle ?! A community that seeks to introduce & promote the philosophy of kawaii (cute) culture as a fun, happy, & positive lifestyle alternative. Feel free to be inquisitive, join the community, & get involved!※
With a cheer squad like no other, we gained a TON of support from friends abroad, officially becoming affiliated with Kawaii Philippines. Thinking so much of our humble efforts, they included a listing of us in their Kawaii PH book, Beyond the Cutest Dreams. (file this under a million things I would have NEVER imagined)
(If you’re reading my blog it’d probably be an international order, so if you want to buy please go here)
Our First Convention
We decided it’s best to keep the ball rolling with other kawaii events and things. Aside from a few meet-ups, Big Bus Tour・International Lolita Day Brunch x Fashion Walk・Magical Girl Brunch., next up for spreading the word about DC KawaiiStyle community efforts was Waku Waku +NYC. We have always wanted to do conventions, as well. With this being the first J-pop culture convention for the East Coast, here was a great time to start learning convention circuits and intertwining those goals as well. huhuhu
The most significant meet-up for our kawaii community was DC KawaiiStyle Tea Party. People from both DC KawaiiStyle & Metro Lolita communities who I never knew were even there came. Everyone looked so amazing and our sweet treats and hemp tea were the best things poppin! Everyone’s co-eds were on fleck and there were a lot of smiles. It felt like a sunny day in Harajuku, I swear!
The day’s feelings definitely made me want to push harder to make this feeling happen always, in DC.
Little INKPLAY Shop (#supportLIPS) Fund Revamp
With a bit more introduced about kawaii, I thought it would be a good time to formally reintroduce the concept of Little INKPLAY Shop, an empowering private tattoo studio and kawaii culture hub. Hiring my good friend (sistah from another mother) and fellow kawaii lover, Kaila as consultant, we produced #supportLIPS fund to better outline what I am working towards. Officially launching in January, please get involved, but first please feel free to check out the fundraiser’s goals, objectives, and strategies here.
More with #KAWAIIindaHood
This year, Terra and I set out with a plan to gauge feedback even more with kids. I am proud to say it was yet another success across ALL of E.L. Haynes grade levels. <3 This year, we made kawaii kokeshi bookmarks and notecards. The goal was to encourage friendship and getting along. They learned about the Japanese word nakayoshi, meaning pal or good friend and challenged to work with another student in the class they wouldn’t normally work with. I always assumed kids would turn up their nose to such an idea, but nope! These kids were all for it.
DC KawaiiStyle/ #KAWAIIindaHood began a partnership later this year with Be Beautiful Foundation and we got to get some fun D.I.Y. things done at our first Kawaii D.I.Y. Day. We are hoping to make this an annual thing! Hoorayyyyy for D.I.Y. *fist pump*
Which was promptly followed by our Ugly Sweater party which was a year end celebration for both communities, launching with a blast, and keeping it kawaii in 2015! <3
We even did a promo video introducing the two communities and our partnership! Please watch ^^
I’m excited for a pretty poppin’ 2016! How about you?!
See yah soon!