Alternative fashion comes in a huge variety of shapes and shades. Most people will associate ‘alt’ with black, studs and chains. But at the other end of the spectrum is Kawaii and Lolita which uses pastel colours and frills. Amy Le Strange is known on the scene for her cutesy outfits but there’s an edge to her look too. It’s east meets west and the result is quite wonderful. She manages to combine softness with a sense that she is far from fragile. Le Strange chatted to Gary Trueman about her fashion influences, the brands she wears and where she gets them from.
You first came to Devolution’s attention on a ‘Kittypocalypse’ shoot at the then home of Road To Ruin festival. It was very pink and girly even though it was in an apocalyptic setting. Is that your go to look or do you mix it up a little?
“Yes definitely anything pink or pastel is my initial go to I’d say.”
You do a pastel goth look but you’re also more Kawaii too at times and also for this shoot have a Lolita look. How would you say those differ from each other and do the boundaries blur at all?
“I would say pastel Goth is inspired a bit more from western styles. Whereas Kawaii and Lolita are more from Japanese street fashions. I think there’s a lot of overlap between the two of them. Pastel goth can incorporate the spookier side. Kawaii and Lolita is more cuteness.”
You say those two are from Japan which has a completely different culture to the west. Do you think in the west, in the UK there can be a level of shock at seeing women dressing in what is quite juvenile clothing? Does it raise eyebrows?
“I think so. In Japan Lolita started as a kind of feminist movement for women who didn’t want to follow traditional ideas of femininity. I think that applies in the west as well. They aren’t conventional outfits and when you go around the streets wearing it then it does tend to raise eyebrows. It’s a good way to subvert through fashion.”
Do you think that in the west people, particularly men, will take it the wrong way?
“Yes, literally Yes! There are a lot of misconceptions around Kawaii and Lolita fashion. Especially the name Lolita. Most of the girls I know just like wearing it because it’s cute. And in Japan it tends to be worn by women in their 30s up whereas in the west younger women wear it as well.”
So it does stem from an eastern feminism then, not many people would know that. Obviously there are various pastels but generally the most common are pinks and blues. But you do wear darker shades too and you’re in black for some of this feature too. So how do you choose whether to go pastel or dark on any given day?
“Often it will depend on what I’m doing. If I’m doing something a bit more fun and extravagant then I’ll wear pastels. If I’m doing something a bit more casual then I tend to go for more black and Goth. Often as well when I’m getting ready I’ll listen to some music and that’ll influence what I wear too. Sometimes my chilling out at home clothes can be a bit more ridiculous. I wear character onesies and things like that.”
So you turn yourself into a little Pokemon?
“Yes, exactly. It can go either way. A onesie or I could be in just a big hoodie.”
Let’s have a look a bit more at specifics and start with make up. What looks inspire your make up and what brands do you use?
“I look at a lot of my friends on the internet for inspiration. They are all very creative with their make up. My fashion roots have always been more Goth. So I tend to take a lot of inspiration from that and use styles that you would normally see on darker fashion, but I’ll try to use different colours. I’ve been using a lot of Sugarpill stuff lately. Their colours are really nice and they have nice highlighters. Definitely Sugarpill for lipsticks. Nyx do really good eye liners, they do a great white eye liner. You can use it to make your eyes look bigger.”
Kind of like the Anime look you see on some people at comic cons?
“Yes exactly, the big Anime eye look.”
You’ve grown your hair out really long which looks fantastic. Is that an ongoing project, where are you aiming to go with that?
“It was really long a few years ago and I cut it all off and I was really sad about it. I really regretted it. I’ve been growing it for about four or five years now. It’s almost to my hips now and I’ll probably let it go a little bit longer and then keep it like that, and never cut it again.”
What do you use on your hair? You obviously do a little bit of bleach and colour but mostly it’s your natural colour. Are you doing that to keep it healthy.?
“I’m trying not to dye it too much at the moment because it does get a bit fried. I use a conditioner which is quite hard to find. It’s by Palmers and it’s cocoa butter moisturiser. They also do a conditioner, and that’s amazing. I literally use that every day and it’s healed my hair from the bleach. I’d really recommend it.”
Are you finding with the length you’ve got loads of options to play around with styles?
“Yes. That was one of the things I was most sad about when I cut it off was that I just couldn’t do anything with it. Now it’s longer there are loads of things I’ve been trying to learn how to do. Wearing pig tails though is my go to hair style.”
We touched on clothing earlier so let’s expand on that a bit and talk about brands. What are the brands that you love wearing for pastel and for the darker Gothic look?
“For the darker everyday stuff I tend to wear Cyberdog. I have quite a lot of their bits and pieces and I think you can use them in loads of different looks as well. In terms of pastel look I get them from club wear brands like Kiss Me Kill Me and Chaotic Candy. But if it’s Lolita then it’ll be Angelic Pretty or Baby, The Stars Shine Bright, brands like those.”
So do you by the Lolita apparel as imports or do they have outlets in the UK?
“There’s nowhere in the UK. There is an outlet in Paris, they have an Angelic Pretty store there. Hopefully it would be something they would open in London. I would love to work there if they do. I would never leave. There are a lot of big second hand markets for Lolita clothes because they’re hard to get from Japan. There are lots of groups and places online where you can buy second hand clothing. Pretty much everything I own is from there.”
You did mention that you will often choose what to wear after being influenced by what music you’re listening to. So what music do you tend to go for?
“I listen to the most ridiculous stuff haha! I’ve actually really got back into Vocaloid (EDM with heavily synthed vocals) recently. I listened to loads of it when I was younger. It’s just fun, silly music. That’s something I’ll listen to when I’m doing a more pastel look. For darker themes I’ve been listening to old school EBM and industrial, and also post punk and doom jazz.
Doom jazz! That would definitely make you want to wear black.
If you had someone young come up to you admiring your look but saying they’d be a bit nervous about wearing it and where would be the best place to start to get stuff from. What would be the key pieces of advice you give them?
“I would say if you wanted to learn more about it and start wearing it then there are so many good Facebook groups you can join. There are actually fashion mentoring groups for Japanese fashion on Facebook where you can get advice from people who have been wearing the fashion for a long time. Buy everything second hand because it’s cheaper and it’ll save you trying to get it from Japan. If you want to wear alternative fashion but you’re a little bit nervous about it then just try to incorporate a few little things to start with. Ultimately when you go out people will judge you whatever you wear so you may as well wear what you want. In my experience, even when I’m wearing the most ridiculous Lolita outfit, ninety nine per cent of the time people are just interested and are nice about it.”