Lolita is, arguably, Japan’s most contentious fashion export, with the UK’s media both congratulating and condemning its wearers in equal measure. On the one hand, it’s praised for the quirkiness and originality displayed by wearers; however, the trend has also been slammed by critics for sexualising young girls and trying to make them look ‘doll-like’, with wearers often seen in high heels and Victorian-style petticoats.
Noor Al-Kattan is a fashion pioneer, famed worldwide for combining Lolita clothing with traditional Islamic dress (known as ‘hijab fashion’). In an interview for Hanna, Noor dispels the myths surrounding the quirky Japanese trend and proves that seemingly contrasting trends can go hand in hand.
Why did you start wearing Lolita clothing?
I was around 19 years old when I first discovered Lolita fashion. It all began with my interest in Asian culture, which I had from a very young age; I admired the food, music and culture. Through looking at Japanese fashion magazines with friends one day at school, I discovered Lolita. The style was very striking and caught my eye as it was so different to anything I’d seen before.
There are some negative connotations surrounding the Lolita movement, with some areas of the press claiming that it is sexualising young girls and trying to make them look like Barbie dolls. What do you say to this?
Unfortunately, there are a large number of people in this world who are ignorant and don’t research a topic before making claims. Yes, there is a novel entitled ‘Lolita’ (editor: this is a 1955 novel by Vladimir Nabokov, where a 37-year-old literature professor becomes obsessed with a 12-year-old girl, whom he nicknames ‘Lolita’).
However, the fashion style has nothing to do with the book and its subject matter. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it’s the complete opposite. An important aspect of the style is to appear cute and innocent, but to do so modestly. This means clothing shouldn’t be too revealing or sexual.
What advice would you give girls (and guys) wanting to become involved with the Lolita movement, but are afraid they will be laughed at for looking different?
My first piece of advice is to do your research. There are a lot of resources on the internet – there are forums and social platforms such as LiveJournal, Facebook and tumblr. Make sure you know what you are getting yourself into and the associated ‘expectations’ behind creating an outfit. It’s worth taking your time to plan that first outfit.
Does the fact you are a Muslim and also involved with the Lolita movement attract criticism or admiration from others? Are people confused that you are interested in both, and are there any conflicting interests?
When I first began dressing the way I do, I received a huge amount of criticism and racism. There were people who disapproved of what I did. They claimed it was a conflict of interests, and that Lolita and Islam could not work together. Confusion arose from a few individuals because they believed you couldn’t be a Lolita if you hid your hair and wore the hijab.
However, the feedback wasn’t all negative. In fact, there has been a considerable amount of admiration. I have been truly fortunate to receive support from many people, and I am so grateful for that. This support has helped me spread my message – that no matter what your background or beliefs, you should do what makes you happy. It’s your life, and if it follows everything you believe, then it shouldn’t affect anybody else. Faith and fashion can work together perfectly well.
You can see more of Noor’s style here: http://sugarnoor.tumblr.com/