Sunday, 28 September 2014

Event: J-Con Derby 2014

Hi everyone! Last weekend I attended J-Con, a Japanese culture convention in Derby that showcases anime, manga, comic books, video games, Japanese fashion and more. My partner runs it and I've been attending since 2010, so this has been my 4th year and the 7th year J-Con has actually been running. J-Con 2014 was Friday 19th and Saturday 20th; the Friday was a chilled out anime viewing night with showings of exclusive animes and an abridged series voiced by MasakoX, as well as free popcorn and a live set and DJ set by Johnny Reaper.

My best friend Jayde came to Derby on the Friday and whilst walking to Patisserie Valerie, where we were gonna brunch all classy like, we came across the birds of prey sanctuary where they had some owls and falcons on display for photographs, holding and donations!

This demon owl was so fucking badass! I just had to have my photo taken with him.

Demon owl is protecting and looking out for me.

This was Gandalf. Gandalf was a frigging nutcase. He just stared at everyone, plotting his inevitable escape and massacre. Some people wanted to hold him, which was a big mistake. He kept trying to escape, opening up his huge-ass wings and when the keeper grabbed him and restrained him, Gandalf looked at him with a look that said 'I'm going to claw you to death. Just you wait.'

The name of this species of owl escapes me, the ones with the tufty ears. He was pretty chill.

Jayde got her photo taken with this cute little owl, except he's not cute at all; he's a cold blooded killer according to the keeper. I think he's deciding whether Jayde is worth the hassle or not in the last photo. He decided to go for an easier victim and let Jayde walk away with her life.

Afterwards we went to Patisserie Valerie and had lunch!

I had chicken, gammon and tomato grilled sandwiches with crisps and a weird salad that I didn't touch. The sandwiches were really nice and the crisps were ready salted flavour, so meh.

I had mango and passionfruit tea that got super strong towards the last cup.

For dessert Jayde and I both got Belgian waffles with chocolate ice cream and sauce...they were soooooo nice! I managed to polish mine off, with the unfortunate side effect of feeling sick afterwards but it was totally worth it.

Afterwards we went home, got changed for the J-Con Friday night and packed up my stuff ready to et up my stall.

Here's my outfit for the Friday night.

Blouse: eBay
Bustier: Warehouse
Skirt: eBay
Tights: Madame Chocolat
Accessories: 8th Sin

We had a fun time on the Friday, just hanging and watching what was going on. Afterwards we went home, got Chinese takeaway and watched the original Carrie movie, since I've only seen the sucky remake.

The Saturday of J-Con is a standard convention day, with cosplay contests, Japanese fashion catwalks, a Lolita tea party, Lolita 101 panel that I ran, video gaming contests, an artist room, arcade games and more.

My Saturday outfit and the worst quality selfie in existence.

Blouse: Infanta
Bustier: Chess Story
Skirt: Anna House
Tights: Primark
Boots: Bodyline
Headbow: Baby The Stars Shine Bright
Accessories: 8th Sin

Me and Jayde's selfie during the day

Attending the Lolita tea party with my friends

After J-Con finished, we packed up my stall and headed to Moon Sha for food and karaoke. I wasn't feeling too well (I never do at events; I think it's the lighting, noise, being surrounded by people and sporadic food/drink situations) so I just got a starter of pork gyoza and a drink. Some friends arrived at Moon Sha later and had the teppanyaki show. We headed up to karaoke and sung a few cheesy songs before heading home, passing out and Jayde departing on the Sunday morning.

I had lots of fun, like I do at all J-Cons. It's really well organised, lots of people come and have fun and the events are interesting and varied. I did well with my brand, 8th Sin and got to see old friends.

Here's a random outfit from our last outing at Moon Sha a few months ago; I post it here because it's pretty similar to my J-Con Friday outfit. Blouse + black bustier = Easy win
Blouse: Received in a trade from my Italian friend Elena
Bustier: Warehouse
Skirt: Primark originally, but found in a charity shop
Tights: Grimoire Verum
Shoes: Everything5pounds
Accessories: 8th Sin

My next event is Animanga Pop, in Bristol next weekend! I'll be bring 8th Sin there too...I can't justify going to an event unless I'm trading haha XD I still don't know what I'm wearing there but it's only for one day so I'm sure I'll figure something out.

I've got some reviews for you guys soon, but I'm trying to have more personal and fashion posts too, rather than just lots of reviews! See you again soon!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Review: Secret Key Snail & EGF Repairing Toner, Essence, Emulsion & Eye Cream

Hi everyone! Today I have a couple of reviews from the same skincare line but first, I have some exciting news! I'm saving up to go to Japan!!! I decided that since I am working at a beauty counter temporarily again, I will put away most of my pay to save up! After I finish work, I'll put away as much as I can from what I make at events with my brand - whilst I'm on the subject, see if there's anything you like from my shop and take part in the old tradition of exchanging money for goods, which I will then exchange for a trip to Japan! ^_~ Anything helps! I actually had the idea of starting a Kickstarter, Indiegogo, GoFundMe, whatever, where you get a voucher for my store that is higher than the amount donated - that way, it's not just 'Hey send me to Japan for no reason, okay? ^^', you actually get a really good deal out of it. I'm still thinking about it though and any input you have would be so appreciated! It really annoys me when you see people expecting money for nothing on these funding, really infuriatingly annoying...anyway, back to the reviews!

I have reviewed the cream from this line in the past, Secret Key Snail & EGF Repairing Cream - I have actually started to run out of the essence and emulsion and have cut open the bottles with a scalpel so I figured I'd best do a review before they run out!

Brand: Secret Key
Name: Snail & EGF Repairing Toner, Essence, Emulsion and Eye Cream
Price: Toner $6.34, Essence $5.76, Emulsion $6.34, Cream $5.95, Eye Cream $9.76
Where to buy: Koreadepart (Toner, Essence, Emulsion, Face Cream, Eye Cream)

Secret Key's brand store is 'The Secret Key uses a natural extract base, therapy method which human's wisdom was included, working hard to make trendy yet a product thatgives [sic] smooth skin and mind peace. You can check the information onthe [sic] site'

Um...okay? XD Secret Key has a few different lines of skincare, including their Snail & EGF, Syn-ake, White Pearl Illuminating, Snow White (whitening), Power Extreme Moisture (men's) and Dragon Blood line.

EGF stands for 'Epidermal Growth Factor'; it's a growth factor (naturally occurring substance, usually a protein or steroid hormone; in these products it's a protein) that stimulates cell growth and kickstarts the cell renewal/repairing process. EGF can be found in human platelets, macrophages, urine (ew!), saliva, milk and plasma. The main active ingredients in these items are snail extract (1%), caviar extract, non-germ pork placenta, white mushroom extract and lanoline.

Snail extract is used in cosmetics for its repairing benefits - it strengthens the skin and moisture barrier, so skin holds onto moisture and hydration longer and breaks in the barrier are less frequent (breaks in the moisture barrier causes dry skin, irritation, breakouts, etc.). Snail extract, to some extent, repairs damage on and in the skin - skin looks brighter, more even toned and healthier. The benefits of snail mucin/mucus was discovered when someone (a company, person, etc? I forget.) wondered why the hands of paddy field/rice workers were so smooth, even toned and healthy-looking.

Caviar extract is debated about whether it has any benefits in cosmetic products. It contains proteins, amino acids, fatty acids, lipids, vitamins and minerals, which, assuming they can penetrate and effect your skin, means your skin is more hydrated, plump, soft, healthy, the moisture/skin barrier is repaired and more radiant. Studies done by Aqua Bio Technologies (a cosmetic company that features caviar extract in their cosmetics) for their Aquabeautine XL line showed that women between the ages of 40 and 65 showed improvement in wrinkles, fine lines, roughness, dullness, hyperpigmentation and sagging after 12 weeks (source). However, the means and actual ingredients of 'caviar extract' can vary from company to company; some companies actually use real caviar in their products, some use the fluid extracted from fertilized fish eggs and whether the caviar comes from salmon or sturgeon can depend on the company too.

Pork placenta is used in cosmetics for stimulating cell growth and renewal, leading to softer, more supple, radiant skin. The use of pig placenta (as opposed to other animals such as cow and sheep) has been shown to be more compatible to humans and more receptive. The cell renewal benefits of snail extract and pork placenta slow the visible signs of ageing when used regularly and over time.

White mushroom extract is used because white mushrooms contains lots of vitamins like Vitamin B and D, fatty acids, minerals like selenium, copper and potassium and antioxidants. These components are proven to prevent the signs of ageing, brighten the skin and hydrate it. Mushrooms contain a polysaccharide that is equally beneficial in hydrating and providing a plumping effect to the skin as hyaluronic acid. Vitamin D repairs the skin and its skin barrier. Some mushrooms contain kojic acid, which is a natural skin lightener that inhibits the production of melamine and evens out the tone of skin. Mushrooms also contain antioxidants which help fight against free radicals, damaged cells that spark a chain reaction in other cells that leave them damaged and causes visible signs of ageing.




All the product packaging is the same - a creamy main colour with brown lid/screw top and writing. It's not particularly cute, nor particularly boring but it reminds me of cocoa butter and chocolate! The little snail on each product is in metallic gold.

Below is the size of each item in my hand for comparison.

You get 150ml of the toner, in a bottle with a screwtop lid and a small hole on the neck of the bottle for easy dispersion.
You get 50ml of the essence, which is a bit more than most serums (usually 30ml). This essence comes in a pump-style bottle.
You get 150ml of the emulsion, with the same product packaging and dispersion method as the toner, except the hole is larger, the full size of the neck. Because the emulsion is quite thick, it doesn't drip out like the toner - you have to shake/tap the bottle and squeeze a blob out, but it was almost always too much for my face and neck.
You get 30ml of the eye cream, which is a little more than the average (usually around 15ml-25ml). It's in a squeezy type tube with screwtop lid.

The toner is a watery substance and clear. It smells like most of the other Secret Key Snail & EGF items - it's not really floral, fruity, sweet, etc...just kind of clean and nice? The toner is meant to reset the levels of the surface of your skin back to PH neutral after cleansing (where most cleansers are alkaline) ready for the other products you'll put on your skin afterwards as well as give a bit of hydration. Many Western toners are for astringent purposes and contains alcohol usually. The toner spreads and absorbs easily in a few seconds. This will be the third thing to run out - the first thing that ran out was the face cream, then the essence and now that I've sawed the bottles in half, I can see that the toner will run out before the emulsion.

The essence is clear and smells the same as the toner. It has a more goopy consistency, and if you try to split the amount you've pumped out, it goes all stringy, a bit like glue. Some people have said it feels more like snail slime than the other products but I don't really think that and it doesn't really bother me; like I said, it's just a bit more goopy that the others. It's not sticky when you apply it to your face though, and again, spreads and absorbs easily. The purpose of the essence is moisture and the general benefits of snail extract, white mushroom extract, pork placenta and caviar extract (shown above in the 'Product Information' part) which is brightening and evening of the skin tone, encouraging cell growth and renewal, repairing the skin's moisture barrier and plumping the skin. I use two half pumps, one on each side of my face since it's hard to split one full pump due to the goopiness. Other than the face cream, this was the first product to run out. I sawed the bottle in half and was able to get about a week's extra supply by using a cotton bud to retrieve it! *hobobeauty*

The emulsion is thicker and creamier than the essence, with a milky white colour. This actually smells more citrusy than the rest of the products for some reason! Again, it absorbs really fast. This is the last product that will run out, other than the eye cream, which I started using after I started the other products. I actually ended up using too much of this product almost every night due to the opening of the bottle, as mentioned above, yet it's the last thing to run out? ...Okay.

This is the eye cream. I was using Clinique's All About Eyes when I first started using the Secret Key Snail & EGF Toner, Essence, Emulsion and Face Cream. I ordered the eye cream to go with it and when I used up my Clinique one, switched to it so I started using the Secret Key Snail & EGF Eye Cream after I started the rest of the line. I'm about halfway through the eye cream. It has the same brightening, evening, repairing and hydration properties as the cream. I started using this cream after I used the Balance Syn-ake Eye Cream to lighten my dark circles considerably so I was worried they'd darken again after switching to a new eye cream. I'm happy to say this eye cream maintained them and maintains the hydration in my eye area too. The eye cream doesn't really smell of anything and it absorbs and spreads easily. However, when combined with certain products that aren't part of the Snail & EGF line it can actually sting a little...more specifically, the Aurelia Revitalise and Glow Serum, I haven't tried anything else.
The whole line delivers hydration, brightening, cell growth/renewal and skin barrier strengthening. My skin has no dry flakes or tightness whilst using this line. Applying the skincare in the morning makes my skin feel hydrated and soft all day with or without makeup. At night I apply a couple of other products for night time hydration and again, the sensation lasts. In the morning, before makeup or not, I used to apply the toner, essence, emulsion, eye cream and face cream. Nowadays I use Clinique's Liquid Facial Soap in Extra Mild, Clarifying Lotion #1, the toner, emulsion, eye cream and Astral face cream now a couple of the products have run out. At night I applied the toner, essence, emulsion, eye cream, face oil (pure rice bran oil) and Astral moisturiser and nowadays I use the Clinique soap and Clarifying Lotion again, the toner, emulsion, eye cream, face oil and Astral cream.
I really like this skincare line - the benefits are great, actually work and the line is super cheap yet high quality. They don't feel the need to charge through the roof with ingredients like snail extract, EGF, pork placenta, white mushroom extract or caviar extract. There's a lot of higher end lines toting caviar extract as a luxury ingredient charging 10 times the price. The skincare line is great for my dry skin and I can imagine it's good for dry combination skin if you only use the toner, essence, emulsion, eye cream and face cream as opposed to adding in extra products like I do at night. With oilier skin types, you can actually swap the Snail & EGF Face Cream for the Snail & EGF Gel instead. I'd definitely give this line a 5/5 for price, quality, packaging (not cute but kind of chic looking) and durability. It's a great, affordable introduction to the delights of Korean skincare. The only niggle is that it's a bit hard to get, since you have to order through Koreadepart or eBay.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

I Love Fashion

*Listening to: Death Suits You Fine by Lordi*

Hi everyone! How are you doing? This is another reminiscing/personal discussion post again today, sparked by Poupee Girl again haha! It was sparked mostly by Poupee Girl and partly by putting away clothes the other day...

I can't think of any other way to start this but than saying I love fashion. I think I love it more now than I did when I was younger, and I only hope my love can grow. Fashion is a wonderful thing and when you make it your own style, it is even more wonderful. Watching your wardrobe grow, your style evolve and change and the memories sparked by clothes is a very special thing that is hard to explain to people who aren't 'into' fashion. I remember joking with my boyfriend about moving to an isolated island and my own problem being whether they would deliver my Taobao orders to the island, to which he replied 'You wouldn't need that superficial nonsense'. Now, he knows that I don't buy and wear cute clothes to impress him, since he doesn't really care what I wear as long as I'm happy (and I doesn't look completely mentally ill, of course) but he somehow thought that if we were truly happy and away from annoying people you come across in everyday life, I wouldn't need fashion to make me happy. I wholeheartedly disagree.

Fashion is an art, and a way of making yourself feel like a piece of walking art. I might not be a masterpiece, but I'm still art. I can wear whatever I feel like at the moment, what my mood and outlook is like, and it can change daily to suit me. Fashion isn't just about buying and/or wearing clothes - for me, it's putting together these lovely outfits from individual items of clothing, raw materials if you will, and creating something awesome that can change and evolve by adding and subtracting these raw materials. Jewellery, accessories and shoes can change the feel of any outfit drastically and are more things you can play with.

Certain items of clothing and accessories spark feelings inside of me that can't be felt by other means. Finding ways of proudly organising and displaying my items is another way to have fun with fashion. Looking at the wooden Grimoire brooches transports me back to Frock On, seeing the silver and bronze eyeball ring and brooch Tina gave me at Hyper Japan makes me miss her and wish to go to Japan, even certain makeup, like one of my favourite lipsticks, Etude House's Dear my Jelly Lips-talk in PK001 combined with Rimmel's Royal Gloss Lipgloss in Jellybean makes my lips look and feel like cute, juicy jellybeans!

Just now, I uploaded this pair of boots to Poupee Girl. They're New Rocks with a black and silver spiderweb design on them and New Rock's classic grills on the platform. I've had them since I was 13-14; I remember I was just starting to get into Goth fashion and a friend of friend gave me some of her old alternative clothes. Nowadays our styles are very different - she was kind of a hippy Goth and some of the items she gave me included this ankle length knitted zip up red cardigan, a bit battered and beaten, and a pair of ratty red platform sneakers, kind of like Buffalo sneakers. I didn't have any other alternative clothes and wore the sneakers all the time, much to my mum's dismay. She kept telling me to throw them away since they were so beaten but I pointblank refused. They made me feel cool and different! One day we went to Derby for a shopping trip and I'd heard about this cool alternative shop called Haze, since closed down. We were just browsing, I was in awe of the Hell Bunny and Criminal Damage clothes, and these fucking awesome pairs of New Rock boots that lined one wall right across. My mum got me to try a pair on that I liked, these pair with the spiderwebs on and I thought nothing of it. Maybe for Christmas, a birthday, who knew? Much to my surprise, she actually bought them there and then for me, out of the blue! Apparently 'so I didn't have to wear those gross trainers anymore'. I was absolutely ecstatic and wore them any opportunity I could - after school, on the weekends, over jeans, with skirts, you name it. I fucking adored them and showed them all my friends, who thought it was so cool my mum bought me them. Just posting them to Poupee Girl made me all warm inside, the surprise of my mum buying me them, and even though she complained about my alternative fashion, knowing that she bought me them for whatever reason she had. I don't wear them as often now but feeling all these feels really makes me want to wear them again, like right now.

The feelings you can get from fashion and individual items of clothing is just mindblowing. These pieces of cloth stitched together, these bits of leather and rubber, that can have such life and feeling.

I love the feeling of putting new clothes away and displaying them properly. When I'm in the right mood, I love putting clothes away after I've washed them. I love taking care of them, hanging them up properly, storing and organising them in my wardrobe according to category (outer, tops, skirts, dresses, shoes) and styles (Lolita, Gyaru, Goth, Punk, Cyber, and all the items that cross styles). I love zipping dresses up, doing up buttons on blouses, sorting out the collar, tying waist ties and cravats.

Fashion isn't just about going into a shop and buying an item. To me, it's about scouring the most unlikely of places, charity shops, bargain bins, friend's sales, and finding precious gems that can shine in your wardrobe. My most loved pieces are never just from Primark, Criminal Damage, or bought directly from Angelic Pretty or Baby The Stars Shine Bright.

My most loved Lolita dress is this one I bought on a whim from a Taobao shop called Kirakira. I originally wanted a Rose Melody one, which was sold out, so I had to quickly find another one to replace it as my first proper Lolita dress. I saw this at a ridiculously cheap price, like £18 and thinking 'This is nice'. I had no idea how Kirakira's quality was, and I Googled reviews of them to no avail, other than saying 'You get what you pay for'. I bought the dress, not knowing what to expect; little did I know it'd be my most loved and worn dress in my wardrobe. Every time I wear it I get complimented, and people are surprised when I say how much it was and where I got it from. I don't think I'll ever sell it because of how much it means to me.

Nana Kitade was my introduction into Lolita fashion. I Googled and saved as many photos of her as I could, and one particular one that was my favourite was this one:

I loved her hair in it, her hair bow, everything. I loved the skirt but never dreamed I could own it. One day I found a girl selling it on EGL_Comm_Sales for around £120 but sadly, couldn't afford it at the tender age of 15-16. Gradually I saw her add it to the Lolita Facebook sales groups as they became popular, and she kept reducing and reducing the price until one day, I could afford it! I had started working at my boyfriend's shop and finally had a small wage coming in. I asked her to hold it for me and said I could pay half of the price, £25 there and then and the rest as soon as I got paid. She was dubious since she'd been let down by other sellers in the past but literally as soon as I got paid, I Paypalled her the money immediately. Within days, one of my first ever coveted Lolita items was in my hands.
It was even more beautiful than I imagined, even more high quality and it even had the surprise panel of pink tartan fabric featured in Nana's hair bow on the back of it! I loved it so much and wore it to see Perfume live, among other events. Again, I don't think I will ever sell this skirt because of how much it means to me.

This is a wonderfully unique bustier I found in a charity shop in my home town quite recently - my mum actually spotted it, put in the men's shirts section and marked as underwear! With all of its beautiful details, the iridescent bicone teardrop beads, sequins, gold metallic braid, lush velvet fabric and marbled floral chiffon ruffle trim, I just had to have it. It's one of my favourite Dolly Kei pieces and the most perfect example of the gems charity shops can hold within.
This is one of my most recent purchases and was found in the same charity shop as the bustier above! It's one of my favourite charity shops now! This beautiful skirt was actually available in two types - this one, a size 8 made of black organza and white embroidery, and a size 10 made with plain black opaque cotton and the same white embroidery. I preferred this one over the size 10 and was disappointed at the thought of the size 10 one fitting better. I tried both on and strangely, this one fit me better! I couldn't even zip the size 10 up! I knew it was fate and bought it straight away. Again, I absolutely adore it and it's one of my favourite Dolly Kei items.

When I buy clothes, I buy them to keep. I don't understand some Lolita girls who say they can only have 5 or so dresses before they feel guilty/spoiled and have sell them. If it's your money, and you earned it, who gives a shit? Who has the right to make you feel guilty or spoiled if you save money to buy the things you love? I don't buy clothes to wear once or twice then sell - sure, my style might evolve and change over the years, maybe even months, and I come to sell some of my clothes, as I have done many times over the years, but they have completed their purpose in my life and it is time to send them on their way to be loved and worn by someone else. I think that if you take care of, love, cherish and wear all the items in your wardrobe, you can never have too many clothes. The same goes for jewellery, accessories and shoes. My boyfriend says I have too many shoes, many of which I bought from, charity shops and Facebook sales but when I wear them with certain outfits and make sure they get outing every so often, who is he to judge? When he first moved into the house we live in now, he stored all of his shoes in his wardrobe, other than the two pairs he wore regularly. Last year we had a clearout and he pulled out all of the shoes he had stored, smart shoes for interviews/formal events, a pair of trainers, his old football boots, snow boots and a pair of chunky platform trainers he wore when he was younger (we all did it, see?!), he was shocked to find they were covered and ruined with mold. He said 'Why are all of my shoes covered in mold and yours aren't?! You even have more pairs than me!'...Mine weren't covered in mold because they were worn regularly, moved and maintained! Even if I only wore a pair once every few months, at least they were getting moved and worn out periodically rather than stored for years. It might sound like we disagree on fashion but we have never argued in our 4 years together and fashion is a very personal, private thing to me - he doesn't really get fashion and that's okay, my fashion has nothing to do with him haha.

Do you feel the same way about fashion as I do? This turned into a bit of a long post but it feels so nice expressing my love and getting it all out! Do you have any treasured items in your wardrobe? I'd love to hear! If you've got this far in my post, thank you and see you soon~!