Monday, 17 December 2018

Studio Shiki Maiko Henshin Review

Studio Shiki Maiko Henshin

To carry on from my oiran henshin (courtesan makeover) review, I thought it'd be best to follow suit with the maiko (apprentice geisha) henshin I experienced in Kyoto during the same trip to Japan, at Studio Shiki. It was my first trip so I really went all out in making sure I had the best, most memorable trip with every experience I wanted to try, since I wasn't sure when I'd be able to visit again (spoiler alert: I ended up going the next year, for twice as long). I did my maiko henshin before my oiran henshin as the maiko one was the one I knew I 110% wanted to do, and I wasn't sure if I could afford both experiences during one trip. I ended up throwing caution to the wind and booking the oiran transformation after my maiko experience because I knew I couldn't let the opportunity slip me by. I did these experiences in January 2016 but checked recent TripAdvisor reviews to see if my experiences are still relevant, which I believe they are. The only thing that may have changed is the prices/conversion rate changing slightly.

I gave a little bit of information on what an oiran was during my last post, but I feel like people may know more about maiko and geisha. However, some of the knowledge may be untrue or exaggerated, such as they were prostitutes. Like oiran, maiko and geisha are first and foremost artists and entertainers. I could go on and on about the difference between maiko and geisha (called "geiko" in Kyoto because they were thought to be higher quality and more talented than geisha from anywhere else), why people think geisha were prostitutes and more but I'll spare you from that. All I will say, that relates to the post, is that a maiko is an apprentice geisha who wears more hair accessories, cuter make-up and more decorated kimono and accessories than a geiko. This is because the emphasis was on the maiko being the epitome of young beauty, and that when she graduated to full geiko status, she didn't need to rely on more accessories and flashier kimono to attract customers. Her skill, talent and subdued beauty would be more than enough. You could only be a maiko up until the age of 21, then you had to graduate (known as "turning the collar") as a geiko, and if a woman wants to become a geisha after the age of 21, there is no maiko stage and she debuts as a geisha immediately after training. I was 21 when I had this makeover so I was juuuuuust in time haha! I had the experience in January 2016 and my birthday is in February, phew! Of course, you can have a maiko henshin at any age, but I got extra pleasure from being just the right age. Now I have done a maiko makeover and am a bit older, I would love to do a geiko henshin to compliment and compare.

I did some research and settled on Studio Shiki for my maiko henshin as they seemed one of the highest quality studios, with a large selection of authentic kimono and accessories, and had consistent good reviews and service. Their transformations look more authentic than other studios I have seen. Their head shop is located in Gion, the most famous geisha district in the whole of Japan, let alone Kyoto, which was a definite selling point to me. They also have another branch in Higashiyama called the Sakura Branch. Studio Shiki's prices were reasonable and they had a sale running when I visited. They also had a sale on when I last checked their website recently for writing this article, so they may be one of those shops that have continuous sales. It seems the package I went for is no longer available, it was inbetween "Studio shoot with strolling plan" and "Executive plan". I can't remember the exact price but as the "Studio shoot with strolling plan" is currently ¥18,900 (about £140) and the "Executive plan" is ¥33,900 (£240), I think it was around ¥20,000 (£150) at the most. In my plan, after hair, make-up and dressing (in which you keep the white tabi socks they give you to wear as an additional souvenir and for hygiene reasons), I had four studio photos taken, around 40-60 photos taken outside, a rickshaw ride, 30 minutes of free strolling outside in the attire, all the photos on a CD and 8 photos in a full colour photo book. The "Executive plan" comes with postcards and phone charms which mine did not, so they have updated the packages slightly. I wouldn't be particularly interested in postcards or phone charms so I'm glad I visited before they changed the plans.

Another titbit for you: all maiko/geisha makeover studios are required to dress you with a couple of inaccuracies at least (very small inaccuracies that a regular person wouldn't be able to spot, such as slightly out-of-season hair accessories, kimono or accessories) so that you can be distinguished from real maiko and geisha. There is one studio I know of that can dress you completely authentically, but you aren't allowed to go outside, you can only have photos taken in their studio and garden.

Geisha makeover review

The studio was very easy to find using Google Maps, and I was greeted by the staff. There was an slightly older lady being served when I entered, and she was enquiring about having a geiko henshin instead of maiko and they said it was no problem. I was taken to a changing area, and changed into a white "nagajuban" robe, which is worn under kimono. I put my clothes, shoes and bag in a lockable locker.

First was make-up, as the white face make-up needs to be complete before hair styling or a wig is put on. They applied my make-up very expertly. At first the stark white make-up with no contour colour and your eyebrows covered is a bit shocking and interesting to see, but they fill in your eyebrows and contour your face with a light pink powder to add dimension and shadow, and of course do your eye make-up and lips. I paid a small surcharge (around ¥500-¥800; it's ¥800 now so I can't remember if it was always ¥800 or they put the prices up) to have false eyelashes applied as they look better in photos. Next was hair - you can choose between a full wig, or half-wig, where the back of your hair is covered with a half wig and the front is styled in the maiko hairstyle slightly overlapping the wig (like with the oiran henshin), and it looks more natural than a full wig. If your hair is not black, they can spray it black temporarily. Because my hair is long and black, it was a no-brainer to go with the half-wig and I wanted it to look as natural as possible. They styled my hair well, using wax to smooth my hair and wispy bits at the front. They put a couple of classic maiko hair accessories in my hair, such as the red fabric tied around the front "bump" of your hair, and a tortoiseshell comb. The rest of the hair accessories would come after kimono dressing in order to match them up.

After hair and make-up, you can choose your kimono and accessories. I went with a beautiful black kimono with pink and purple cherry blossom flowers, red and white collar (all maiko have a red collar and change to pure white when they graduate to geisha) and matching accessories. I asked for recommendations on obi and accessories to look better and was given a couple of choices with everything so the experience was personalised. After I was dressed in the kimono and accessories, they chose hair accessories (kanzashi) to match the kimono. I was very pleased they chose two short kanzashi: first year maiko have only their bottom lip painted red, and one short and one long kanzashi that trails down in their hair, whilst second year maiko have both lips painted and two short kanzashi in their hair. One common inaccuracy that studios sometimes do (as required) is that they get the client to wear a long kanzashi but paint both lips. Anyone who knows even slightly more than a regular person about maiko and geisha know these signs of a first and second year maiko, so I was pleased they didn't make that obvious (to me, at least) mistake with me. Obviously someone who knows next to nothing about maiko and geisha wouldn't know, which is fine. I'm sure someone more knowledgeable about maiko, geisha and their attire would be able to point out the inaccuracies of my outfit.

After I was dressed fully with accessories, hair accessories, my hair and make-up done, I was led to a small studio set up to have some pictures taken without shoes on. They gave me props like a traditional straw bottomed bag, fan and parasol to pose with, and advice on how to pose. To be honest, the studio backdrop was not very attractive to me, it was that kind of mottled blue similar to when you have school pictures taken so I wasn't particularly bothered about studio photos. Obviously I'd have them as I paid for them but I was more interested in location photos. After the studio photos, they gave me a pair of maiko shoes to wear, "okobo", which are wooden platform sandals with small bells in them to tinkle as you walk. Genuine maiko okobo are quite high, around 4 inches/10cm in height but I think the studio's okobo were a bit shorter. I'm assuming it's for client safety if they aren't used to walking in high platforms (being a bonafide goth, I would've loved to try my hand walking okobo with the proper height) and also maybe another slight inaccuracy they're required to do. I can't confirm this as I have seen photos of genuine maiko and their okobo vary slightly in height. After stepping into the shoes, I took my first steps outside (easy peasy) and the staff advised me on how to hold my kimono as I walk. They also said I could put my phone or camera in my kimono sleeve as opposed to using a bag so that my hands were free, and so that I could take photos during my time outside.

I was taken to some beautiful traditionally Japanese locations in Gion to have pictures taken in my ensemble. I was given further advice on poses and positioning. The photographer was lovely and encouraging. Whilst I was having my photo taken in some small quaint alley, a Chinese couple saw me and asked to have their photo taken with me! The girl was in a lovely white lace dress (kind of bridal style but I'm sure it wasn't her wedding day) and the man was in a black and white suit. It was very sweet, I would've tried communicating that I'm not a real geisha but the language barrier was a bit of a problem and they didn't seem to mind. The photographer asked if I would mind having my photo taken with them, which was considerate to ask.

Maiko makeover review

After the couple thanked us and left, we took some more photos in different locations, such as in the general hanamachi ("flower town", a name for the geisha districts), in front of shrine gates and other locations. I was then led to a rickshaw stand and a very friendly rickshaw driver, Ryo, was there to meet me for my rickshaw ride. The photographer told me he would take me around Kyoto for around a 20 minute ride, and then I would be able to stroll around for about half an hour before I was expected back at the studio to reverse the makeover. Ryo was so friendly and polite, he spoke a bit of English and was very eager to practice with me as well as encourage my Japanese by asking if I knew various objects and things in Japanese. Not only did he take me around Kyoto in a rickshaw, he also stopped to take photos of me in the rickshaw using my camera, pointed out local landmarks and places of interest and really went out of his way for a wonderful rickshaw tour of Kyoto. As he took me around Kyoto, people stopped to watch, some smiling, waving or taking photos, especially when we stopped for photos. My ride was a round-trip, and Ryo took me back to the rickshaw stand where we took a photo together, and he gave me a few small souvenirs free of charge, including stickers and postcards. Having a friendly and eager rickshaw driver added to the experience wonderfully, I could not have asked for a better driver. I felt like a celebrity being drove around Gion in a rickshaw and being photographed.

After I bid farewell to Ryo, I was left to wander Kyoto on my own. I didn't want to stray too far from the studio as I didn't want to get lost or arrive late back at the studio, but I also wanted to use the strolling time fully and not head back early. I stopped to take a couple of selfies on my phone, obviously, and strolled around for a bit. I didn't want to stop and browse stores as I could do that another day, and I was kind of pretending to be a real maiko so of course they wouldn't stop to look at window displays in their regalia. It would be more authentic to be power-walking daintily through the streets and alleyways of Kyoto, pretending I'm on my way to my next banquet or event as that's pretty much all you see of maiko and geiko outside in Kyoto, unless a new maiko is debuting or turning her collar to become a geiko. Lots of people stopped, stared, smiled, waved or took photos. I must admit, I don't normally care what people think of me or if they stop to stare or take photos, but I felt a little self-conscious in my maiko get-up. It was mostly down to myself and my weird pride; I knew I wasn't a real maiko and I didn't want people to think I was pretending to be one. There are plenty of photos of girls dressed as maiko and geisha in public, and people think they are the genuine article but they aren't. I just wanted to play make-believe in my head and stroll around for my own enjoyment. I didn't let this put me off though; I'd paid for the strolling plan after all, so after about 20 minutes of walking around, I headed back to Studio Shiki just to make sure I wouldn't be late. As I ducked into the studio in a small alleyway, I noticed people poking their heads round the corner to see where I was heading, so it was quite a nice touch to be heading into a traditional looking Kyoto building to add to the illusion.

Once I arrived back at the studio, I took the okobo off and was led upstairs to begin the process of undressing. Staff took off my kimono, accessories, hair accessories and half-wig for me, led into the original changing area, which had sinks, hair dryers and toiletries in it and told me to take my time removing the rest. I didn't feel pressured to hurry so I did indeed take my time removing the make-up and washing my face with the skincare they offer. They had a thick cold cream to remove the make-up by massaging and melting the make-up, then rinsing it off. I also washed the wax out of the front part of my hair using the provided shampoo and dried my hair with the provided hair dryer. I'm pretty sure they also had some make-up products to use as well but I brought my own. The amenities they provided were a necessary and thoughtful touch to keeping your experience perfect. No need to go out with lanky, waxy hair or specks of make-up still on your face. After I'd washed my face, washed and dried my hair and got dressed, I went downstairs to a waiting area, gave back my white robe and  was told to relax in the area whilst I waited for my CD of photos in digital format. I was given a photo book with 8 of my photos printed in full colour on thick, glossy photo card. They didn't ask me which photos to use, and I can only assume they print the photo book as you are having the rickshaw ride and stroll. The photos were okay and included the studio ones I weren't enthralled with, but you can't really complain when they also give you all the photos on a CD. Their logic is, quite rightly: make your own goddamn photo book if you don't like this one! They put everything in a bag for me along with a pamphlet for the studio and walked me to the entrance where they wished me a warm goodbye. I continued my day sightseeing in Kyoto, almost in a daze from the wonderful experience I'd had. I almost couldn't wait to get back to my hostel that evening, where they had a laptop free for guest use, so that I could see the photos on the CD and upload a couple to social media. I'd previously posted my selfie from earlier in the day and my friends and family were eager to see the rest of my experience.

My maiko henshin was my number one thing to do during my Japan trip, and it couldn't have gone better for me. It was worth every penny paid and I treasure the experience fully. The staff were warm and attentive, perfect Japanese customer service as always, and eager to find out I speak Japanese. They gave me full choice in kimono selection, and multiple options for accessories when I asked for advice. The photographer was lovely and my rickshaw driver, Ryo was the perfect attentive driver and tour guide. I highly recommend this unforgettable experience if you have any interest in a maiko or geisha makeover and want a unique experience during your trip to Kyoto! As I mentioned at the beginning of my post, I would love to do a geiko henshin now I have done a maiko one and because I am a little bit older. Some may find it pretentious but I sometimes remind myself of the notion that geiko are more refined and subdued in grace and style as they rely on their experience and talent to progress in life. I remind myself of this when I notice my fashion style evolve but still compare myself to younger girls and think "I wish I could look as cute as them!".

I hope this review was informative and in-depth without being too long. I wanted to cover every aspect for a comprehensive review but if I've left anything out or you have any questions, pop them in the comments and I'll get back to you.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Studio Nanairo Oiran Henshin Review

Studio Nanairo Oiran Henshin review

I was just about to post these photos of my Oiran Henshin experience at Studio Nanairo back in 2015 on Instagram along with a mini review and it motivated me to write the full review I always intended to. I meant to write an in-depth review of their service, studio and experience after my trip but, well, time makes fools of us all. I checked TripAdvisor reviews for the studio recently, just in case their service has changed drastically, however unlikely, and it still sounds the same so I'm sure this review will still be relevant.

First up, for the uninitiated: what's an oiran? Henshin? Nanairo? Studio Nanairo is the name of a makeover studio in Asakusa, Tokyo. Nanairo means "seven colours". "Henshin" means "transformation", so in this sense it can be translated as "makeover".

An oiran was a high class courtesan (a classy way of saying a prostitute) whose culture rose to popularity in Edo period Japan. They were first and foremost entertainers, and were highly educated, intelligent, witty and skilled artists in dance, singing, calligraphy, musical instruments and flower arranging. They weren't your cheap street corner prostitutes. The highest rank of an oiran was "tayuu". A night with a tayuu easily cost over a month's wage for a regular Joe like a labourer or shopkeeper and around the annual salary of a shop assistant. As well as, well, pleasuring you, they attended banquets, were skilled conversationalists, danced, sang, played musical instruments and kept a banquet entertained and flowing. They were the precursor to geisha, who actually performed alongside or behind oiran but did not have sex with clients. The decline of oiran and rise of geisha is another story for another time, perhaps, but it was mostly down to prostitution laws and cost. It may seem strange that people want to dress up as prostitutes, but oiran were revered, had celebrity-like status and their art and fashion set trends in Japan. Nowadays the fashion and culture has been preserved with the prostitution taken out of it, and there are still a handful of real oiran and tayuu about today, but like I mention, they more preserve the culture, perform at festivals and do not participate in sex work.

 Studio Nanairo have many makeover packages including kimono walking packages, which are where they dress you in standard kimono and let you sightsee for the day in it, then return it in the evening or morning after. There is a maiko (apprentice geisha) and geisha makeover package, but personally I would not recommend these. I can tell they are not the studio's forte and you would have a much  better experience having a maiko/geiko henshin in Kyoto, the home of geisha culture.

There are various levels of oiran package, only really relating to the amount of photos and prints given and printed, and the choice of two uchikake (highly decorated outer kimono) to be photographed in for variety. All the oiran packages come with hair, make-up, full kimono and accessories, uchikake, studio use with props and at least 3 printed photos. I opted for the "nadeshiko" package, which allowed me to wear one uchikake and have 3 printed photos of my experience. I ended up purchasing all the digital images on a CD (about 40-50 images) for around an extra £100 because I simply couldn't decide on just three images and wanted to treasure the experience fully. I also wanted the ability to post the photos online rather than just have prints of them.

The prices may have changed a little in 3 years, and undoubtedly the conversation rate, but it cost me roughly £150 for the experience then the additional cost for the digital images. The "nadeshiko" package is currently ¥25,000 plus tax (8%).

It was easy to make a reservation online, and their website is available in very good English. The studio was easy to find with Google Maps. I was greeted warmly upon entry and the customer service throughout was impeccable, as is expected of Japanese customer service. I must note that I have heard that Western tourists that don't speak Japanese can receive a little less than exceptional service, not in Studio Nanairo but in general. I do speak some Japanese and was always met with delight that I could speak Japanese so I feel it's good to note this. The staff were friendly, chatty and polite with me.

Studio Nanairo Oiran makeover photo

First you change into a plain cotton robe and put your clothes, shoes and bag in a basket that you ferry around with you from area to area, and that allowed me to take some photos on my phone at the end of the experience. The first experience is hair and make-up, done in the same place. You should come with no make-up on, which I don't like doing but it's essential. The staff were chatty whilst doing my hair and make-up, and asked me if I'd like a "pretty" or "cool" style to my overall look. I said that I loved the film "Sakuran", and Anna Tsuchiya's character Kiyoha in it, and they immediately set about making me in the image of her, even comparing hair accessories and changing them to what they felt were better suited! They made me feel very taken care of and my experience a special one. They used my hair and hair pieces to create the Oiran hairstyle, and using your own hair makes it look very natural as opposed to a full wig. The make-up was done nicely and to suit my facial features. They put all the combs and hair accessories in my hair once my hair and make-up were done.

Next up was changing into kimono. You got to choose from a large range of kimono, but naturally I gravitate to black kimono, and chose what the attendant said was a very traditional and lovely kimono. It was black speckled with red and white sakura blossoms on it. You have say in the obi and following kimono accessories, and I asked for recommendations to create a nicely balanced coordinate. They always gave me 2-3 recommendations and then I chose the one I liked most. You then choose your uchikake, the heavily decorated and embroidered silk outer kimono, and I chose a red one with traditional imagery of flowers and crane on it to compliment the red in the rest of the make-up and outfit.

Some reviews on TripAdvisor have said they felt rushed in choosing their kimono, but I didn't. I said all the kimono were beautiful and it was hard to choose, and they didn't rush me at all. Again, maybe it was down to me speaking Japanese, and their fear of me being able to express my disdain at any less than perfect customer service. Spoiler alert: I still don't know how to complain in Japanese so joke's on them haha.

Next up is the actual studio photography session! The studio is beautifully decorated and ambient, with a sumptuous feel and lighting. The photographer gave me poses and props to try, words of encouragement and generally was great at his job. There were a couple of staff members in attendance to hand me props and also offer tips for posing and positioning. The kimono and hair accessories are quite heavy, and the obi is kind of like a corset in that it restricts your back movement and flexibility so it was a little challenging but fun posing and looking effortless in the outfit!

Again, I read in some reviews that people felt rushed in their experience, with one reviewer saying they wished they'd had about 10 minutes or so after the photography session to simply take in how they looked and felt. I can't say I felt rushed in this aspect either, and the staff members actually asked me if I'd like some full length photos taken on my phone, and then I took a couple of selfies as well. Afterwards, I changed back into my regular clothes, removed the make-up and hair accessories. I had forgot to bring my make-up with me to be able to do my make-up after the experience, and even worse, I don't think there was facilities to wash and dry my hair after the experience as well, or if there was, I didn't see it. This was only a problem because, as tradition dictates, they use a firm wax in your hair, especially at the front, to keep your hair smooth, glossy and free from flyaways. When I brushed my fringe back down, it was super waxy and gross looking, and I hadn't brought anything to alleviate the situation. I found a hair pin in my bag and pinned my fringe to the side but it wasn't my ideal look and I had to rush back to my accommodation to wash my fringe and style myself before continuing my day. This experience wasn't really down to the studio; like I say, I can't remember if there were facilities to wash my hair but there were during my maiko henshin in Kyoto (review to come). I felt very self-conscious rushing back to my accommodation with no make-up on and my fringe greasily pinned to the side. In reality, people probably didn't care or notice but it's not how I like to present myself in public so I was in distress. The staff also didn't treat me any differently either.

After changing back into regular clothes and looking like a greasy slug, I waited in reception to receive contact sheets of my photos and to choose three prints to receive. This is when I bought all the photos in digital format on a CD as well. As I mentioned above, I had such a wonderful experience and didn't just want three prints to take away. A lot of the photos were great, wonderfully lit and angled so it was a no-brainer for me to purchase them on a CD. I would hated to have left the experience and then wish I'd have bought the CD and only have three prints that undoubtedly would not have been as good quality in digital format, as I'd have to scan them in.

Studio Nanairo courtesan makeover package

All in all, I highly recommend this experience to anyone wanting a luxurious, warmly attended oiran makeover. Yes, it's a little pricey but it's an unforgettable experience you will not regret. The photos throughout this article are some of my favourites from my experience and I still love to look at them and relive it. Naturally, the experience is also one of my favourites during my time in Japan.

When I return to Japan, which I'm sure I will, I would love to try the Studio Esperanto experience in Kyoto which looks equally as high quality. I would also love to try the Fox Bride makeover at Studio Kokoro, which is a very unique look I would definitely love to experience.

I hope this review is helpful, but if I've missed anything out or you have any questions, feel free to comment below and I'll get back to you!

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Travel Beyond the Crypt: M'era Luna 2018 + Hanover, Germany

Last month I was invited to attend M'era Luna in Hanover, Germany with some friends. M'era Luna is a large gothic and alternative music festival and though many of the bands weren't of much interest to me, I still wanted to go, enjoy the atmosphere and have a good time with friends.

I also really enjoyed the setting as M'era Luna is held at Flugplatz Hildesheim-Drispenstedt in Hildesheim, a former British Army airbase. It was so cool to walk down an airport runway and party in hangars!

goth girl make-up
Photo of my make-up I took whilst waiting for my dear friend Eloise.

Lips: Dior Addict High Impact Lipstick in Pinstripe Plum

Then later on when we set up camp and were ready to get the weekend long party started, Eloise took an outfit photo for me.

gothic festival
Dress: Topshop
Harness and garter belt: 8th Sin

Goth girls selfie
I jazzed up my make-up and Eloise and I were ready to party!

Ministry playing M'era Luna 2018
Ministry with their anti-Trump chickens!

Admittedly I didn't take many photos of the festival but I had an amazing time and the photos I did take pretty much summed up the entire weekend. It was a long weekend of drinking, eating, live bands, after parties and admiring everyone's fabulous outfits.

Gothic queen make-up

Eyes: NYX Hot Singles Eyeshadows, Anna Sui Eye Color Palette (black glittery shade), NYX Epic Ink Eyeliner, Collection Cosmetics Glam Crystals Glitter Eyeliner.

Lips: Sugarpill Pretty Poison Lipstick in Zero and Burberry Lip Mist in Oxblood in the centre.

gothic queen outfit

Saturday's "Demented Queen" look. I knew a lot of people would go all out for their outfits so I didn't want to be underdressed!

Crown: Pendulous Threads
Dress: Punk Rave
Tights: Estrellas AliceHolic Tights
Shoes: Jeffrey Campbell
Choker, bracelet, feather epaulettes (shoulder pads): 8th Sin

gothic girls at m'era luna 2018
Eloise and I also got our picture taken shortly after my outfit photo! Eloise looked incredible all through the festival!

gothic friends selfie
Eloise and I with our lovely friends Charlotte and Aro.

gothic girls
Our beautiful friend Nadia who made her entire outfit herself. Her talent and eye for fashion is so inspiring.

gothic girls at m'era luna 2018

London After Midnight at M'era Luna 2018
Some of the bands we saw including London After Midnight

Gothic queen

gothic make-up
Outfit detail photos taken whilst we were waiting for Ministry to start.

After party at M'era Luna 2018
The after party on Saturday night. The lasers kind of look like they're taking control of people haha!

gothic succubus girl
Sunday's lower key, still drunk/hungover Succubus look. Sunglasses are essential on Sundays of festivals.

Sunglasses: Anna Sui
Lipstick: Burberry Lip Mist in Oxblood
Dress: Fernopaa (now defunct)

gothic girls at festival
Nadia and I drinking a litre of cocktail to kick things off on Sunday! Hair of the dog and all that.

On the Monday after M'era Luna, we had some time to kill before our flight back to England so Eloise and I explored Hanover a little.

  Marktkirche, Hanover, Germany

Admittedly, Hanover is not a city with a ton of tourist attractions but one interesting thing it does have is Marktkirche, a medieval German Gothic church with a pentacle on it! Although pentagram and pentacles have been used in Pagan, early Christian and other religions, it's funny that it's seen as an occult symbol and is on a church now.

Gargoyle in fountain, Hanover, Germany
In the market square they also had a fountain with these cute little gargoyles on them!

I had a great time at M'era Luna and although I wouldn't camp again, I'd definitely visit M'era Luna again for an incredible weekend with friends.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Photoshoot: run: reality.exe (2018)

Fact: Every alternative teenage girl has a go at modelling at least once.

I am not an exception to this rule. I did a bit of modelling from around 17-18 and stopped to pursue my business. I've done the occasional photoshoot since then if the opportunity arose (see my High Priestess photoshoot) but recently I've picked up more modelling work, which started with winning a photoshoot with Violet Studio in Sheffield. After this, I started taking on more modelling work and creating shoots as I found it a great creative outlet to concentrate on other than my business. Sometimes I get a little burnt out because I work so hard on my business, and even when I try to take "breaks", they still relate to work somehow, like answering emails or promoting on social media. However, coming up with concepts and putting together a story to shoot is a great way to focus creativity elsewhere when I need a break, since fashion and styling comes second nature to me.

I'll post the Violet Studio photoshoot photos at some point but one of my more recent shoots was a Cyberpunk shoot titled "run: reality.exe". I told you I'm on a Cyber kick at the moment! It's a realistic look on the not too distant future, inspired by the upcoming game Cyberpunk 2077, where the sun burns a little brighter due to global warming, and surroundings are bright and eye catching to distract from stressful city life. In this concept, I race around the city, thriving on city life and getting into mischief. I wish I had the props or Photoshop skills to show myself zipping about on a hoverbike! Maybe that could be another shoot following on from this one?

cyberpunk photoshoot
I really like how carefree and at ease I look in this photo.

cyberpunk girl

cyber goth
This photo was shared on Japanese fashion online magazine The Comm's Instagram for their Cyber issue.

cybergoth photoshoot
I totally found this pixelated effect by accident and I'm so happy I did!

Model, hair, make-up, wardrobe, styling and editing is all done by me, and photography was done by my friend (@ohhoneybe on Instagram).

Top is stocked by my brand 8th Sin and the skirt is from Aderlass.

If you'd like to work with me, get in touch on Purpleport where you can see my full portfolio and references: Laura Moriarty

What do you think to this shoot? Do you like Cyberpunk or Cybergoth style?


Saturday, 4 August 2018

Multitasking Beauty Products Whilst Travelling

As I do a lot of travelling for pleasure and work, I often have to make the most of the space in my suitcase and be conscious of weight, size or liquid volume limits. Of course, buying travel sized products or decanting products into travel containers is one way to help. Another way is by using one cosmetic for multiple purposes so here are some ways to multitask beauty products whilst travelling!

Compact foundation

A face cream with no SPF can be used for both night and day use.

Moisturising toner in a spray bottle can be used in place of products like MAC Fix+ and other refreshing mists, and can be used on your eyeshadow brush after you've put eyeshadow/pigment on it to increase the pigmentation.

Mix your regular coverage foundation with your moisturiser to create a dewier BB cream type product to wear on casual days. You can also put both products in a contact lens case, one side for the regular coverage foundation, one for your new BB concoction.

Use lipstick as a cream blusher, but be conscious of it containing shimmer or glitter depending on the look you want!

Pink Lipstick

If you do take blusher along, it can be used as eyeshadow and when combined with brown eyeshadow in the crease, can make for a lovely romantic look.

Use matte brown eyeshadow for contour, eyebrows and eyeshadow.

Use highlighter as your inner corner eyeshadow/highlight. You can also pat it onto the centre of your lips to make them look fuller.

Mascara wand

Mascara can be used as eyeliner if applied with an angled eyeliner brush, and can be used to tightline (darken the waterline of your upper eyelid) by pressing down gently at the roots of your lashes as you apply mascara.

Depending on your skin type, you may be able to skip face powder all together and just use setting spray or nothing at all. You can also use setting spray after putting eyeshadow/pigments on your eyeshadow brush to strengthen the colour (giving you multiple shade options), which you can't do with face powder!

Are there any more beauty products that can be used for more than one purpose? Let me know in the comments and I'll add them with your credit!

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Travel Beyond the Crypt Sainte-Chapelle, Louvre Museum

On my last day in Paris, I originally wanted to visit Pere Lachaise Cemetery, the largest cemetery in Paris and the burial ground of Oscar Wilde as well as other icons such as Frederic Chopin, Jim Morrison and Eugene Delacroix. However, it still didn't stop snowing from the previous day, so public transport including taxis were still messed up. I stuck to central Paris as I was travelling back to England later on that evening.

I decided to visit Sainte-Chapelle instead, which has free admission for any EU nationals under 26.

The outside of Sainte-Chapelle is pretty hard and not that impressive to photograph since it is surrounded by other buildings and in a crowded area, but the inside more than makes up for this.

The chapel was started in 1238 and finished in 1248, commissioned by King Louis IX to house his collection of religious relics.

Sainte-Chapelle, Paris

The inside is amazingly beautiful and one of my favourite sights during my trip. I received so much inspiration from seeing these beautiful purple-hued stained glass windows, for jewellery, clothing and more.

Sainte-Chapelle, Paris

Sainte-Chapelle, Paris

Sainte-Chapelle, or at least the parts open to the public, is not very big so it doesn't take too long to view it. After Sainte-Chapelle, I visited the Louvre Museum.

  Louvre Museum, Paris

The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace, is the world's largest museum (as well as the most visited) and contains over 38,000 pieces of art. The museum is indeed absolutely huge, and days would be required to view every single piece, so it's best to pick which pieces you'd like to see or make a very quick pass through the entire thing. Among the most famous pieces are the Venus de Milo and Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa.

Venus de Milo at the Louvre Museum, Paris

Venus de Milo

The Three Graces sculpture in the Louvre Museum, Paris

Although Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa are by far the most famous pieces of art held in the Louvre, and I saw both, the sculpture above was my favourite and unknown to me before visiting the museum. It's The Three Graces, or a reproduction of the original statue, which was carved by an artist unknown and lost in the sands of time. It's quite hard to find information on this statue, since there's a more well-known statue of the Three Graces in existence.

What I love most about the statue is that the depiction of the Three Graces, Roman/Greek goddesses the very embodiment of grace, beauty and youth, was conceived and carved because they were considered the epitome of beauty and perfection. Whoever carved it considered their bodies to be perfectly beautiful, and look, they have what are considered "tummy bulges"! Too many people nowadays are obsessed, or get depressed over not having a perfect body with a perfectly flat stomach that stays like that all the time, but many people don't realise that perfect bodies don't exist; even people who dedicate their lives and careers to fitness admit that flat stomachs don't stay that way forever, and they consider it a good day if it stays past mid-morning. Naturally I have my own body insecurities but seeing this statue, and knowing that even thousands of years ago, this body was considered beautiful and perfect, with natural curves and bumps, is very comforting and I hope it comforts others too.

The Winged Victory of Samothrace, Louvre Museum, Paris

The Winged Victory of Samothrace, carved around the 2nd century BC, around 190-200 BC.

Desserts in London and Paris

The last photo I will leave you for my trip is all the desserts I devoured during my London and Paris trip! Like I mentioned in a previous post, I had a list of highly rated patisseries I would've liked to visit, especially in Paris and I'm happy to say I managed to tick most of them off of my list. Some of the patisseries I visited were Des Gateaux et du Pain, Angelina's, Cafe Pouchkine and Un Dimanche a Paris. Each and every dessert was amazingly delicious; I'm an absolute fiend for desserts and these definitely satisfied. I'd recommend brushing up on and visiting lots of patisseries if you go to France!

There were many other places I would've liked to visit on my trip but simply not enough time to cover them all. Do you have anywhere spooky you'd recommend to visit in Paris, such as the Museum of Vampires and Legendary Creatures, which is on my list?


Friday, 29 June 2018

My Take on Cyber Goth Fashion

Recently I have been getting inspired by futuristic Cyber Goth fashion, but not your regular take on it - I'm not personally into the neon colours, Cyberlox and glow sticks that are brought to mind when you normally think of Cyber Goth fashion, and prefer an all-black (or almost all black), sleek look that I feel is more of an authentic interpretation of futuristic fashion. I had the chance to get a few things from Cyberdog and other places, which prompted this little fashion muse, so I thought I'd share my items and interpretation of Cyber fashion.

One Cyber fashion inspiration from media that is hugely influential to my take on this fashion is Rachael from Blade Runner.

Rachael from Blade Runner - fur coat

I think she is so so cute and love the fashions she wears in Blade Runner. Just look at that fur coat!

Alice from Resident Evil Retribution outfit
Although the credibility of the Resident Evil films are dubious at best (except the first, which is pretty good), I'm a huge Milla Jovovich fan and her outfit in Resident Evil: Retribution is something I'd 100% wear the fuck out of, even though I never usually wear trousers!

Leeloo from Fifth Element

Leeloo from Fifth Element

Leeloo from Fifth Element bandage dress

This may require a little more imagination, but Leeloo Dallas from Fifth Element is another inspiration of mine; if Leeloo from Fifth Element only wore black, that'd be my kind of Cyber fashion! I don't think I'd wear her white bandage outfit but I love the simplistic style that is still very futuristic.

Air hostesses from Fifth Element
Even the air hostess' outfits in Fifth Element can be drawn from - they already look like pieces that could be sold by Cyberdog right now.

Trinity from The Matrix

Another inspiration is Trinity from The Matrix; although her take is a little more masculine than my personal taste (again with trousers), she still has a very chic look I can take inspiration from.

Grace Neutral
One real life inspiration you can look to for realistic futuristic style is Grace Neutral, whose look is inspired by aliens and other worlds. She has modified her body and look to reflect how she feels inside, including tattooing her eyes, undergoing ear pointing, tongue forking and scarification to name but a few procedures.

Out of the real life images and looks you get when you search for Cyber Goth fashion, these are some that I take the most inspiration from.

Cyber goth fashion

Kali Noir Diamond, cyber goth fashion

Cyber goth outfit

Here are the pieces I picked up from Cyberdog to put together my sleek black Cyber wardrobe.

Cyberdog Fang Skirt
Fang Skirt (discontinued)

Cyberdog Mistress Shrug
Mistress Shrug

Cyberdog XXX Torture Dress
XXX Torture Dress

Cyberdog XXX Safety Bra
XXX Safety Bra, mostly to layer under other items

Cyberdog Circuitry Dress
Circuitry Dress (discontinued)

Cyberdog Circuitry Bustier
Circuitry Bustier (discontinued)

Cyberdog Bat Peek Jacket
Bat Peek Jacket (discontinued, not sure if this is the proper name for it as it's hard to find any info)

I also got a dress from Disturbia that has been on my wishlist for a while, so it came about at a good time.

Disturbia Barbarella Dress
Barbarella Dress

Here are a few items still on my wishlist that would fit in with my Cyber wardrobe now.

Lip Service Erotomechanics Halter Dress
Lip Service Erotomechanics Halter Dress

Lip Service Hyper Intelligence High Neck Dress
Lip Service Hyper Intelligence High Neck Dress

Cyberdog Subsonic Dress
Cyberdog Supersonic Dress

Cyberdog Strapper Longsleeve Top
Cyberdog Strapper Long Sleeve Shirt - the Fang Skirt in red would go amazingly with this top as well

Cyberdog Andromeda Mesh Dress
Cyberdog Andromeda Mesh Dress

And here are some pieces I already owned in my wardrobe that go with the style as well. An important tip when expanding your wardrobe without going overboard is shop your stash, use what you already have!

Ghost of Harlem top
Ghost of Harlem top purchased in Japan

Glavil top
Glavil top purchased in Japan

Black pleated leather skirt
Pleather pleated skirt found in Mode Off Ueno

Pennangalan Transmuter Boots
Pennangalan Transmuter Boots

I could do with some more accessories to fit the style. I like simplistic jewellery when it comes to Cyber Goth, with lots of silver or gunmetal black metal.

Black O Ring Choker
My Black O Ring Choker from my store is simple but so versatile. I end up wearing it a lot with Cyber outfits.

Metal O Ring Bangle

I love these O ring bangles in black and silver (available here) - to me they look futuristic but I am also aware some people wear them or may think they're for BDSM purposes. It's a hard balance for me, wearing O ring jewellery without people thinking I'm wearing BDSM items. Can you believe that I first made my Heart Ring and O Ring Chokers purely for fashion purposes? They were (and still are) very popular, and I was happy they were successful, but a friend turned to me and said " do realise they appeal to the BDSM market, right? That's why they're popular" and I was like "...Oh. Hooray?"

Metal O Ring

They also do a ring version of the bangles above (available at the same link). I would love a choker version as well, but again, that would be very close to those infinity slave collars. The other reason I haven't bought these is that they're made of mixed metal/zinc alloy; I'm allergic to cheap metals like nickel, copper and zinc, and as I've gotten older (the ripe old age of 24 as of writing this haha), I much prefer paying a slightly higher price for better quality items (not just jewellery) that are made of higher quality materials that will last longer. I know that if I wear these items, they're going to give me a rash, and after a few wears, the plating will wear off, exposing the copper colour underneath.

I would love to make some stainless steel versions, since I can't find anyone else who does them, but at the moment finding jewellery manufacturers with small MOQ is quite hard. Hey, hit me up if you have any sources, or happen to know for sure 500 of these bangles, rings and chokers would sell haha!

The closest I've found to stainless steel versions of the above is this Etsy store, Terginum, based in Germany, but again, they're very BDSM orientated. Their items are reasonably priced and look high quality though so check them out! I may even contact them to see if they'd do a custom order of the aforementioned items.

Here are a few looks I put together encapsulating my take on Cyber Goth fashion.

Cyber Goth Make-up

This one gives me such Blade Runner vibes, I think it's because of the slight graininess of the picture.

Cyber Goth cut crease make-up

Cyber Goth girl


Well, there's my take on Cyber Goth fashion. This kind of turned into an essay of all black, simplistic futuristic fashion, didn't it? I find putting together these kind of essay/moodboard mash-ups really focus my style so I enjoy writing them. It arranges what I already have in my wardrobe that works with the fashion, and what staples are next on my shopping list. What do you think to this take on Cyber Goth? What's your personal version of it?